Google has issued refunds to hundreds of ad buyers for payments made for fraudulent traffic, most of it likely generated by malware or automated “bots.” The refunds represent only a small portion of the original spending — 7% to 10% — since rest of the money has already been passed on to site owners and middlemen.
The refunds, reported by the Wall Street Journal, primarily involved video advertising. They highlight a persistent issue that threatens the health of commercial content online. Advertisers have been excited by the possibility that digital platforms can make it easier to track who sees ads, and how effective they are in leading to sales.
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But the proliferation of bots, click farms, and other forms of advertising fraud, made easier by highly automated ad systems, have undermined that promise; as much as 11% of all web traffic has been found to be fraudulent.