Technorati – The Federal Trade Commission has gone to war against all the fake news sites. If you’ve visited almost any real news site recently, you’ve most likely seen these advertisements that advertise a “special report” from some news station you never heard of, has discovered the cure to belly fat or a special new secret to working from home. First these fake news sites completely ticked-off the public, who filed complaints against the owners with everyone from the FBI to the FTC. The FTC took the complaints seriously and earlier this year filed several lawsuits against those involved in these practices.
However, while this is progress, the FTC has completely ignored the actions of the large companies that allow these types of advertisements.
The issue here is simple: while the advertisers, and affiliate networks are being targeted by the FTC for compliance actions for creating these deceptive websites, the large advertising networks, including Pulse360 and AOL’s own network continues to run these ads, knowing that they are deceptive and causing harm to consumers. Worse, the companies that run these ads are major news organizations, where the ads seem like real news stories embedded in the content.
When I was talking to the writer for this AdAge article, I pointed out that the VP of Sales at MSNBC, Kyoo Kim has recognized this as a problem and said almost 18 months ago that they would no longer allow these advertisements. As the reporter of the AdAge story pointed out, the original story, also run by MSNBC was still actually flanked by these advertisements. They knew that these ads were a problem, admitted it, but then went back on their promise and continued to make money from it.
Simiarly, as ADOTAS editor, and my friend, Gavin Dunaway, points outin his article, that Washington Post was running a story on this, and “that WaPo is guilty of running the ads as well — he asks his own publication why it ran the ads and a representative says they are investigating the situation.” Whatever that means, it shows that the publishers are well aware of what is going on.According to Richard B. Newman, an Internet attorney at Hinch Newman LLP in New York City, if regulators genuinely want to pursue those ultimately responsible for health-related deceptive advertising on the Internet, the perceived scope of responsibility must be broadened. Also an attorney for the Executive Council of Performance Marketing, Newman states that “neither the media companies, nor the digital media buyers should be automatically exempted from the regulatory scrutiny of unfair and deceptive trade practices when there is some degree of willful blindness, which often exists.”This means simply that these companies, from MSNBC, Washington Post to the networks that run these ads need to be proactive and look at their policies. More importantly, since they are all aware of what is going on, their current defense that they are “just a publisher” doesn’t fly, and their ignoring of how they are making money is at least questionable and unethical. As news sites, they need to really stand up and be “better” than the rest of the industry, not defend themselves with legalize and excuses