Websites That Peddle Disinformation Make Millions of Dollars in Ads, New Study Finds
Fleecing the rubes by propagating hateful conspiracies is a lucrative business with traffic fed from two main sources. The first would be the obsessive extremists themselves, who are often loners with no friends and nothing to do all day but visit extremist sites seeking reassurance, justification, and sympathy for whatever evil shit they believe in. The other would be rubbernecking journalists and sites reposting their shit with an “I can’t believe” or “look at this awful stuff” headline. It’s probably hard to measure which garners the most clicks, but both contribute.
Because of the complex nature of the online advertising ecosystem, companies often don’t know exactly where their ads will end up. “I think given the choice they would actively choose not to subsidize this kind of content, but right now they don’t have the choice,” Rogers said. In one instance in 2016, an ad for Allstate insurance ran next to an article on nowtheendbegins.com espousing a conspiracy theory about the Sandy Hook school shooting, according to a New York Times report. Allstate has since broken ties with several sites classified as disinformation by the Global Disinformation Index.