The egg on Zuck’s face

Nearly all the ads I see on Facebook are fake news items like these two, next to Mark Zuckerberg’s latest post, which is, ironically, about fake news:

screen-shot-2016-11-12-at-7-57-34-pmBesides being false and misleading clickbait, these ads are not from They’re from They are also bait for a topic switch, since they’re actually about a diet supplement I won’t flatter by naming. So they’re two kinds of fraud at once: outright lies from a forged source.

It can’t be that hard for Facebook not to run this kind of obviously dishonest and misleading advertising, especially since this story itself is old news. (See here.) Why hasn’t it been stopped?

I’m guessing the answer is a technical one: that Facebook’s advertising system is too easy a hack for dishonest advertisers to resist, and too hard to change.

Either that, or the money they make from ad fraud more than offsets the cost of egg on their CEO’s face.


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9 Responses to The egg on Zuck’s face

  1. EvilKiru says:

    Because Facebook doesn’t want to reduce their ad revenue…

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  3. Michal Kohne says:

    My guess is that they come and go so quickly that it never gets past ESPN’s ‘fire the lawyers at them’ threshold. They probably are a front company that just passes the orders onto the real company, and if ESPN does notice them, they respond to the C&D by going away and popping up with a new name and domain.

    That’s all just a guess, of course, but it would certainly explain why ESPN hasn’t stomped them with a trademark suit.

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  6. Facebook tries to limit this kind of ads, particularly when the landing pages are not reflecting the ad ; but yeah, they don’t want to reduce their ad revenue…

  7. Shay says:

    This isn’t about ESPN’s lawyers, this is about the controls Facebook should have in place around ad quality, just like every other DSP in ad tech. This is basically fraud, and if this is passing through the threshold, I bet you so is malware.

  8. Jeff Schwartz says:

    What would happen if all ads and all behavioral tracking magically disappeared from the net? Like before the mosaic browser. It’s a serious question. I’ll take my answer off the air.

    • Doc Searls says:

      We can talk more off the air, but I’ll start the answer here.

      First, ads don’t need behavioral tracking. In fact the absence of tracking is what used to distinguish ads from direct marketing and its direct ancestor, direct mail, also called junk mail. Absence of tracking is also what distinguishes advertising from the form of direct marketing we call spam.

      Before the Internet, advertising had always been directed at populations, not individuals. It was aimed through media that addressed those populations. Direct marketing always wanted to get personal, always wanted personal data, and never had much, if any, respect for personal privacy.

      In the old offline world, it was easy to make a distinction between advertising and direct marketing. In the new online world, it’s not. You don’t know if the ad you see for a Ford on a sports site is because Ford is sponsoring the site by advertising to everybody who shows up there, or because you’re being stalked by Ford’s digital agents. It looks like an ad either way, even though one is innocent of privacy invasion and the other depends on it.

      One reason personal privacy can be invaded by creepy and rude direct marketing methods is that our browsers, from Mosaic onward, have lacked the kind of privacy protections we take for granted in the physical world. There are few equivalents of clothing, shelter, doors, windows, shutters, shades or locks. And operating the protections we can add, such as tracking protection, is not easy, and often confusing, because it’s hard to tell first and third party trackers apart, or even to know what any of them do. Worse, publisher anti-ad-blocking systems see tracking protection as ad blocking. Wired and other Condé Nast pubs use those services, and because of them tell me to turn off my ad blocker when all I’m doing is protecting myself from tracking. (I wrote about that here.) So does The Atlantic. They don’t know I’m fine with ads that don’t track me.

      So we need to separate advertising’s wheat from direct marketing’s chaff. Four ways that can (and will) be done. First is through regulation. That’s already happening with Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR. Johnny Ryan writes about that here, for PageFair. Second is through terms individuals can assert, and sites can respect, for the good of both parties. I write about that here, and in other pieces here. Third is through real tracking control, built into browsers. Mozilla and Brave have made moves in that direction. Google, sadly, has become a direct marketing plumbing system, and won’t build tracking protection into Chrome. Fourth is through voluntary support for user tracking protection by websites. Don Marti‘s Aloodo does that. So does his collection of best practices called CHEDDAR.

      As for the no-advertising-at-all possibility, I write about that here.

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