Dirty Tricks

Citizen media has its limits — the reliability of the citizens, as evidenced by a CNet piece on congressional partisans altering Wikipedia entries to embarrass adversaries or protect themselves.

Most of the examples cited by CNet correspondent Declan McCullagh are juvenile ( there is a list) — but the pattern is noteworthy. There were over 1,000 alterations traceable to congressional networks. And now that they’ve been outed the author notes that the tricksters will probably try their tactics from home. It’s disheartening.

Click Fraud: Wired has published an article warning that shady operators are boosting the click rates on advertisements. The subhead reads in part: “It’s search giants against scam artists in an arms race that could crash the entire online economy.” Okay, so it’s a headline and it’s supposed to pump a little air into the story but this excerpt from article should deliver a scare:

“The amount of click fraud is difficult to quantify; estimates of the proportion of fake clicks run from as low as 1 in 10 to as high as 1 in 2. In a widely cited recent study, MarketingExperiments.com, an online marketing research outfit, reported that “as much as 29.5 percent” of the clicks in three experimental PPC campaigns on Google were fraudulent”.”

What online advertisers are buying is the promise of efficiency. If they get the sense they’re being taken, I don’t think it’s overstated to say that online ads could fall out of favor. And while big web operators would suffer, I believe small sites would be devastated. When financial markets get roiled a typical reaction is a “flight to quality.” Money establishes a fall back position on branded names and eliminates marginal risks. It’s not hard to imagine that dynamic putting a disproportionate hurt on blogs

It fell off the (digital) truck “Among U.S. and Canadian cities, New York still holds the dubious distinction of being number one for eCommerce fraud,” said Doug Schwegman, director of market intelligence for CyberSource, which does e-commerce financial transactions. The quoted remark appears in a Center for Media Research Brief that identifies Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago and Detroit as the other likely sites in the U.S. “where online orders were most likely made with stolen credit cards or other fraudulent payment.”

Tom Abate
‘Cause if you ain’t Mass Media, you’re Mini Media