Google has been quietly running tests to find phony ads

Tyrone Stewart

GoogleGoogle has been running tests with a handful of major media companies as they seek to put a stop to fraudulent digital ads.

Working with the likes of NBCU, CBS and The New York Times, Google is looking to combat the type of ad fraud known as ‘spoofing’. This form of ad fraud tricks ad buyers into purchasing ad space that doesn’t exist, or that the seller doesn’t have access to.

Spoofing has become prevalent due to the rise of programmatic trading making it near impossible to know if an ad ran where the seller said it would. To combat this, Google is pushing an initiative called ads.txt. The initiative, which is led by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Tech Lab, enables publishers to declare which businesses are authorised to sell their digital inventory and use this to create programs that prevent them from buying unauthorised ad space.

During tests, with the media giants, Google found ‘thousands if not millions of video and display ads spots still available on multiple ad exchanges,’ though there were no ads for sale at the time, according to Business Insider – which first reported the story.

Ad exchanges found to have these incorrect listings included Google’s AdEX, AppNexus, Oath’s BrightRoll, and PubMatic. In addition, Google uncovered that fraudsters were claiming to be able to sell YouTube ad space on a number of exchanges.