Martin Lewis Calls For Action As Fake Ad Reports His Death

Martin Lewis, the founder of MoneySavingExpert and well known money saving expert, has called on publishers to tackle the scourge of ‘fake news adverts’.

Lewis said publishers should take more responsibility for adverts on their sites after prominent outlets (including Mail Online and the Independent) ran promotions announcing his death featuring a mock-up of his bloodied face, the Guardian newspaper reported.

In January 2019 Lewis dropped its High Court lawsuit against Facebook, after the social networking giant agreed to introduce scam ads reporting button, and makes financial donation.

Fake ads

Lewis had sued Facebook in April 2018 after the social networking firm had refused to stop publishing scam financial adverts that featured his “picture, name and reputation.”

The fake adverts touting the death of Martin Lewis pretended to be breaking news alerts and were badged with the logos of mainstream news outlets such as the Mirror and the London Evening Standard to add credibility.

These fake ads have appeared in some prominent publications including the homepage of Mail Online and the Independent, the Guardian reported.

But when a user clicks on the fake ad, they are redirected to scams including opportunities to buy Bitcoin or referrals to other online shopping sites.

Lewis told the Guardian that reports of his early demise were false but that he was exasperated that both publishers and highly profitable advertising companies were allowing such material to slip through their system without taking responsibility.

Newspaper publishers need to take responsibility for what is on their sites,” Lewis was quoted as saying. “The argument is that they are using an ad-serving platform that uses those ads. Well, if the platform repeatedly serves scam ads that target vulnerable people then they need to ask why they’re using [Google’s] AdSense.”

These ads are designed by a human being who deliberately and maliciously has made up that I’ve either been beaten up or killed, and that is particularly uncomfortable,” he reportedly said.

Who to blame

Mail Online was quoted as saying that the responsibility lay with Google allowing the advert into its programmatic advertising system. It said Google’s vetting system appears to have been fooled.

“The ad flips between redirecting to a legitimate Express news page and a fake bitcoin story – falsely branded as the Mirror – which might explain how a malicious advertiser was able to mask itself as a legitimate brand,” it reportedly said.

Google meanwhile reportedly said the adverts were placed through one of its programmatic products, which allows third parties to place ads on publishers’ websites in real time.

We require all ads and partners on the exchange to abide by our policies; and we’ve suspended the scammers’ accounts,” a Google spokesman reportedly said. “We remain committed to fighting scammers working to evade our systems and are constantly updating our technology to stop new threats as they emerge.”

Lewis meanwhile wants the government to force publishers to introduce a standardised method to report scam adverts in the forthcoming online harms legislation.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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