Towards transparency and privacy in the online advertising business

Understanding the detection of fake view fraud in Video Content Portals

Miriam Marciel, Rubén Cuevas, Albert Banchs, Roberto Gonzalez, Stefano Traverso, Mohamed Ahmed, Arturo Azcorra

DOI: 10.1145/2872427.2882980l

Appeared in WWW 2016, Montreal, Quebec, Canada


While substantial effort has been devoted to understand fraudulent activity in traditional online advertising (search and banner), more recent forms such as video ads have received little attention. The understanding and identification of fraudulent activity (i.e., fake views on videos) in video ads for advertisers, is complicated as they rely exclusively on the detection mechanisms deployed by video hosting portals. In this context, the development of independent tools able to monitor and audit the fidelity of these systems are missing today and needed by both industry and regulators. In this paper we present a first set of tools to serve this purpose. Using our tools, we evaluate the performance of the fake view detection systems of five major online video portals. Our results reveal that YouTube’s detection system significantly outperforms all the others. Despite this, a systematic evaluation indicates that it may still be susceptible to simple attacks. Furthermore, we find that YouTube penalizes its users’ public and monetized view counters differently, with the former being more aggressive. In practice, this means that views identified as fake and discounted from the public view-counter are still monetized. We speculate that even though YouTube’s policy puts in lots of effort to compensate users after an attack is discovered, this practice places the burden of the risk on the advertisers, who pay to get their ads displayed.

Research highlights:
  • We analyze the fraud view detection mechanism of youtube and other major video portals.
  • We found most video portal don’t control fake views and ad fraud.
  • We analyzed in deep the best anti fraud system (youtube), finding that youtube uses a different mechanism to count the views in the public counter and to handle the advertising fraud, being the second one more relaxed.

Read the entire paper here.

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