In 2017, Social Puncher exposed a case of ad fraud on the publisher side: Newsweek. Social Puncher made an independent audit of the federal US government biggest spending in advertising and found fraud with the website Ibtimes.com, a subsidiary publisher of Newsweek.
AppNexus said that had found this pattern weeks before, and Newsweek was already suspended on their platform. After the Social Puncher report, SpotX and Teads also stop selling ads from Newsweek. DoubleVerify blacklisted Newsweek websites due to the traffic manipulation. Investigators from the Manhattan district attorney’s office served a search warrant at Newsweek Media Group in January and took away 18 computer servers. 2 engineers were fired. Laying offs of editorial staff already began. Social Puncher says that “the sale of this traffic to advertisers and advertising systems, both and direct buying and programmatic, could bring tens of millions of dollars to the media group.”
Social Puncher found out that “Ibtimes.com in spring 2017 (March-May) received 13,300,000 of laundered via tech domain pop-under visits and 5,500,000 non-laudered pop-under visits. This traffic made 57% of all desktop pageviews (56,300,000). This traffic ex.ibt.com received from the same supplier of popunder traffic, Pop Ads, and Ad Supply. It was absolutely the same traffic, that IBTimes bought recent 6 months. In fact, it was used only for one reason, to ensure that web analytics systems mistakenly determine the real origin of this traffic as a referral.” According to Social Puncher, the sources pirate sites through the advertising systems Pop Ads and Ad Supply.
How the Ads where being bought
The buying of the advertising was not done via programmatic. The US Government hired an agency that did direct buying / placement, buying all the traffic on these websites.