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Phony Web Traffic Tricks Digital Ads

Published on October 1, 2013
by Christopher S. Stewart and Suzanne Vranica

The website Songsrpeople.com looks a lot like other amateur-video sites. It is wallpapered with clips featuring “the most insane amusement park ever” and “your girlfriend’s six friends.”

The site draws tens of thousands of visitors a month, according to audience measurement firms. It also has ads for national brands, including Target Corp., Amazon.com Inc. and State Farm.

But Web-security investigators at a firm called White Ops contend that most of the site’s visitors aren’t people. Rather, they are computer-generated visitors, or “bots,” designed to fool advertisers into paying for the traffic, says White Ops, which has blacklisted the site — and thousands more like it — so that ads from clients such as Zipcar don’t land there.

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