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This Computer Scientist Just Explained Why You See Scam Ads on Legitimate Websites

Ads for extremely suspicious looking products such as pills that can help people lose weight in an instant or software that is clearly just malware in sheep’s clothing are all over the internet, even on legitimate sites. One might assume that a legitimate site would not have such ads because of the fact that this is the sort of thing that could potentially end up harming their reputation, but the majority of them have these scam ads in spite of the fact that this is the case.

If you are wondering why these ads are so prevalent on sites that have legitimate business interests and usually can’t handle the reputational damage they can bring, you should know that they usually don’t control what ads are shown on their web pages with all things having been considered and taken into account. It’s not that they can’t control it either, rather it’s because they outsource the ad selection process to third parties who use algorithms to take part in something known as programmatic advertising.

With all of that having been said and now out of the way, it is important to note that this process automates the bidding process for ads at a far faster pace than is humanly possible. Hence, many third parties that operate in this field use this to their advantage by displaying scam ads whenever the algorithm allows it.

The scale of the digital ad industry is such that most companies with websites that host ads don’t have the time to optimize ads for each individual. Millions of people visit these sites every day, and by outsourcing to third parties these websites can help reduce their costs and workload.

However, this is the main cause for ads that are clearly marketing scams, and such a thing should not be tolerated. These ads are only put up because people sometimes click on them, and they might come under harm’s way if they do so because their system might get infected with malware or the best case would be that they would buy a product that is dangerous.


H/T: TheConversation / Illustration: Vectorjuice / Freepik

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