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New research shows Google serves almost half of all ad traffic on fake news sites

Google serves 48% of all ad traffic on “fake” news sites according to a new study from researchers Lia Bozarth and Ceren Budak at the University of Michigan School of Information.

The researchers analyzed the advertising on sites from a list entitled “False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and/or Satirical ‘News’ Sources” created by Melissa Zimdars, critical media studies scholar at Merrimack College.

The research from Bozarth and Budak states that, even though big players like Google receive inconsequential revenues from advertising on these scam news websites, they are still “responsible for delivering a substantial fraction of ads on fake and low-quality news sites.”

The study “adds to the case that interventions aimed at reducing the market incentives for mis- and disinformation can be effective,” wrote Justin Hendrix for TechPolicy.

Additionally, “the researchers found that the ‘top-10 credible ad servers,’ like Lockerdome and Outbrain, make up 66.7% of fake and 55.6% of low-quality ad traffic,” said Ryan Barwick for Marketing Brew.

Why we care. Brand safety has been a real concern for advertisers and their clients for the last few years. It’s been top of mind as more search marketers are finding their ad content served up next to negative, fake, and downright spammy sites. Google’s own 2020 Ad Safety Report focused on sensitivity “to brands’ need for control over where their ads displayed as there were increases in hate speech and calls to violence online,” we wrote earlier this year. But this new data indicates that unless advertisers are paying careful attention to their exclusion lists, there’s a chance that they could be showing up next to fake news and misleading content online.

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