Market Forces: Quantifying the Role of Top Credible Ad Servers in the Fake News Ecosystem

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See all articles by Lia Bozarth

Lia Bozarth

University of Michigan School Of Information

Ceren Budak

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

Date Written: July 13, 2020

Abstract

Larry Lessig argues that four modes regulate behavior in cyberspace: laws, markets, norms, and architecture. How can these four modes regulate the production and spread of fake news? In this paper, we focus on markets and empirically evaluate one particular market-based solution: top ad firms blacklisting fake news producers to eliminate their revenue sources. Our study reveals that fake and low-quality publishers demonstrate a higher tendency to serve more ads and to partner with risky ad servers than traditional news media with similar popularity and age. However, fake news publishers are still strongly reliant on credible ad servers. In fact, the top-10 credible ad servers alone account for 65.6% and 50.0% of fake and low-quality ad traffic respectively. Furthermore, our back-of-the-envelope calculation shows that the top-10 ad firms are currently receiving by $1.1 million to $1.3 million monthly from web traffic on fake news sites, a negligible fraction of these firms’ annual revenue. Overall, our findings suggest that having top ad firms blacklist known fake and low-quality publishers is a low-cost way to combat fake news.

Keywords: fake news, advertising, misinformation, display ads

Suggested Citation

Bozarth, Lia and Budak, Ceren, Market Forces: Quantifying the Role of Top Credible Ad Servers in the Fake News Ecosystem (July 13, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=

Lia Bozarth (Contact Author)

University of Michigan School Of Information ( email )

304 West Hall
550 East University
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1092
United States

Ceren Budak

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor ( email )

110 Tappan Hall
855 S. University Ave
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States

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