YouTube and Click Fraud: A Warning Light Flashing?

September 13, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_tNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

I spotted a link to a 16 minute YouTube long form, old-fashioned video from Lon.TV titled YouTube Invalid Traffic. The person who does Lon.TV usually reviews gadgets, but this video identifies a demonetization procedure apparently used by the non-monopoly Google. (Of course, I believe Google’s assertion that almost everyone uses Google because it is just better.)

9 13 bogus explanation

The creator reads an explanation of an administrative action and says, “What does this mean?” Would a non-monopoly provide a non explanation? Probably a non not. Thanks, MidJourney, the quality continues to slip. Great work.

Lon.TV explains that the channel received a notice of fraudulent clicks. The “fix”, which YouTube seems to implement unilaterally and without warning, decreases a YouTuber’s income. The normal Google “help” process results in words which do not explain the details of the Google-identified problem.

Click fraud has been a tricky issue for ad-supported Google for many years. About a decade ago, a conference organizer wanted me to do a talk about click fraud, a topic I did not address in my three Google monographs. The reports for a commercial company footing the bill for my research did get information about click fraud. My attorney at the time (may he rest in peace) advised me to omit that information from the monographs published by a now defunct publisher in the UK. I am no legal eagle, but I do listen to them, particularly when it costs me several hundred dollars an hour.

Click fraud is pretty simple. One can have a human click on a link.l If one is serious, one can enlist a bunch of humans using an ad in A more enterprising click fraud player would write a script and blast through a target’s ad budget, rack up lots of popularity points, or make a so-so video into the hottest sauce pan on the camp fire.

Lon.TV’s point is that most of his site’s traffic originates from Google searches. A person looking for a camera review runs a query on Google. The Google results point to a Lon.TV video. The person clicks on the Google generated link, and the video plays. The non-monopoly explains, as I understand it, that the fraudulent clicks are the fault of the YouTuber. So, the bad actor is the gadget guy at Lon.TV.

I think there is some useful information or signals in this video. I shall share my observations:

  1. Click fraud, based on my research a decade ago, was indeed a problem for the non-monopoly. In fact, the estimable company was trying to figure out how to identify fraudulent clicks and block them. The work was not a path to glory, so turnover often plagued those charged with stamping out click fraud. Plus, the problem was “hard.” Simple fixes like identifying lots of clicks in a short time were easily circumvented. More sophisticated ones like figuring out blocks of IP addresses responsible for lots of time spaced clicks were okay until the fraudsters figured out another approach. Thus, cat-and-mouse games began.
  2. The entire point of is to attract traffic. Therefore, it is important to recognize what is a valid new trend like videos of females wearing transparent clothing is recognized and clicks on dull stuff like streaming videos of a view of an erupting volcano are less magnetic. With more clicks, many algorithmic beavers jump in the river. More clicks means more ads pushed. The more ads pushed means more clicks on those ads and, hence, more money. It does not take much thought to figure out that a tension exists between lots of clicks Googlers and block those clicks Googlers. In short, progress is slow and money generation wins.
  3. TikTok has caused Google to undermine its long form videos to deal with the threat of the China-linked competitor. The result has been an erosion of clicks because one cannot inject as many ads into short videos as big boy videos. Oh, oh. Revenue gradient decline. Bad. Quick fix. Legitimize keeping more ad revenue? Would a non monopoly do that?
  4. The signals emitted by Lon.TV indicate that Google’s policy identified by the gadget guy is to blame the creator. Like many of Google’s psycho-cognitive methods used to shift blame, the hapless creator is punished for the alleged false clicks. The tactic works well because what’s the creator supposed to do? Explain the problem in a video which is not pushed?

Net net: Click fraud is a perfect cover to demonetized certain videos. What happens to the ad money? Does Google return it to the advertiser? Does Google keep it? Does Google credit the money back to the advertiser’s account and add a modest “handling fee”? I don’t know, and I am pretty sure the Lon.TV fellow does not either. Furthermore, I am not sure Google “knows” what its different units are doing about click fraud. What’s a non-monopoly supposed to do? I think the answer is, “Make money.” More of these methods are likely to surface in the future.

Stephen E Arnold, September 13, 2023


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