Even though the Federal Trade Commission recently appeared to be coming down hard on “news” sites shilling for things like acai juice, it looks like those sites are not only still around, but links to them are popping up on major, legitimate news sites.
Sites with names like “News 6 News Alerts” and “Health 5 Beat Health News” steal the look and feel of websites for local TV stations but are really nothing but storefronts for internet marketing firms. In April, the FTC filed suit against the owners of 10 such sites, but at least one defendant believes he’s within his rights.
“We believe our business practices are compliant with the law,” he wrote on his blog, “and are working to resolve this disagreement with the appropriate government agencies.”
And so long as these sites continue to operate, their ads will continue to show up on popular sites operated by AOL and MSNBC, popping up through ad networks that feed advertisements directly to clients. Because many large sites use a variety of ad networks, it can take quite some time for companies to weed out a bad advertiser.
MSNBC.com ran a story 18 months ago reporting on this kind of deceptive advertising, including a statement from its own VP-sales declaring its intention to clear its own site of the problem. But even that story still appears next to false-news headlines such as “New York: Work at Home Jobs EXPOSED,” which delivers consumers to a fake news site. The “Work at Home” ad was served by the Pulse360 ad network, which did not respond to a request for comment.
One lawyer tells AdAge that, even though these links are served up by third-party networks, sites that run specious ads may ultimately be in violation of FTC regulations.
But another attorney states that “Publishers are expressly exempted from the criminal penalties against false and deceptive advertising under the FTC Act except in circumstances when there is refusal to cooperate with the FTC.”
A rep for the FTC tells AdAge that “at some point someone may be able to make that argument” that these legitimate sites are violating regulations, but not now.
Fake News Ads Persist Despite FTC Crackdown [AdAge.com]