In an effort to address the plague of deceptive advertising which pocks the online ad industry, several of the biggest players are pooling their resources. Today, AOL, Facebook, Google and Twitter announced the launch of TrustInAds.org to expose and educate consumers about malicious advertising.
The organization’s aim is to raise awareness among consumers as well as US policymakers about online ad-related scams. TrustInAds.org will publish regular Bad Ads Trend Alerts. It’s a follow up on the Ads Integrity Alliance which the major ad sellers formed two years ago but folded after a year. TrustInAds.org hopes to have more success with consumer outreach and education.
The group’s initial Bad Ads Trends Alert highlights tech support advertising scams. Facebook and Google both found advertisers that were presenting themselves as official representatives of various tech companies offering support services for issues such as login problems on Gmail and Facebook. Users were then encouraged to download and install “special software” containing malware, spyware, adware and any number of other infecting applications in a guise of solve an issue.
Often ads and landing pages contained 1-800 numbers to take the scam offline and make it harder for Google and Facebook to detect the fraudulent activity through their automated detection programs.
In the review, Google and Facebook say they removed over 4,000 suspicious advertiser accounts linked to over 2,400 tech support websites. (For a look at what some of these ads looked like on Google last summer, see our coverage on this issue from last August on Search Engine Land Spotted: Stunning AdWords Policy Violations That Facebook & Google Shouldn’t Be Happy About.)
“While limited in volume and scope, these tech support ad scams not only present a real problem for victims, but also for advertising platforms, publishers and legitimate advertisers,” said Rob Haralson, Executive Director of TrustInAds.org. “Internet companies have worked hard to remove these ads from their platform, but they need consumers’ help too.”
The group has set up a page on the site where consumers can report suspicious ads they see on AOL, Facebook, Google and Twitter’s platforms at http://trustinads.org/report.
“Ads fund today’s internet and help businesses grow, and we want to keep people’s experience with ads positive for everyone on the web,” continued Haralson. “It’s important for everyone – people, marketers, platforms, and policymakers – that the ecosystem thrives.”
In its own report issued in January, Google reported it removed over 350 million bad ads in 2013. Additionally, it said it received more than 100,000 complaints about malicious software and toolbar downloads.