CFA: Google Still Profits From Misleading News

Google continues to place ads on websites that promote false information, despite saying it wouldn't, according to the Campaign for Accountability (CFA).

Google suggested CFA is the one putting out false information.

CFA said that based on a study it conducted and has just released, Google "continues to partner with hyper-partisan sites that often post inaccurate information, and permits publishers to conceal their identities from advertisers so the company can continue to place ads on these anonymous websites."

The group said that the anonymous publishers contributed eight times as much revenue per publisher than non-anonymized publishers. The Oracle-backed CFA said that Google earned $48.8 million from the right-wing sites in the study, which it said were often responsible for publishing "highly misleading" content, or 68% of the revenue from the sites in the sample, compared with getting only 4% of revenue from the left-wing sites in the sample.

That was based on analyzing 1,255 "partisan" news sites, among which CFA said 184 hid their names.

"This 'report' is completely inaccurate," said Google spokesperson Suzanne Blackburn. "A large number of the sites included in the 'research' are major publishers, such as the Washington Post, Fox News, Politico and the L.A. Times, while hundreds of others don’t even run ads by Google. We have extensive policies that restrict publishers in our ad network from misleading, misrepresenting and deceiving users and advertisers — we enforce these policies vigorously. This is just another example of Oracle’s discredited 'Campaign for Accountability' throwing mud at us because of their lawsuit against Android."

As to the sites being anonymous, a Google source said on background that sometimes publishers will be anonymous in ad exchanges to avoid channel conflict, but that "anonymous" does not mean they are anonymous to Google or enforcement. Advertisers can also choose to prevent their ads from appearing on anonymous sites if they choose.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.