Did you hear about this one weird trick that can double your bitcoin holdings? Or how about the secret new cryptocurrency that’s going to replace ethereum? Welcome to the world of fake news and scammy ads, a thriving ecosystem of lies, scams, and over-inflated claims that thrives on social media – as well as on other bitcoin news sites. This week, former New Zealand Prime Minister Sir John Key called out Facebook for allowing the fake news factories to flourish.
Also read: China’s Official Press Agency: 107 Altcoins Under Investigation for Financial Crimes
Cryptocurrency Traders Hate Him
Like any successful industry, bitcoin attracts fraudsters in their droves, lured by the money to be made from selling Ponzis and scamcoins. Experienced bitcoiners can smell the bait a mile off, but newcomers are vulnerable. “Governments are banning Bitcoin,” reads the headline of a typical ad. “They won’t ban this one.”
The latest target of misleading cryptocurrency advertisements is Sir John Key. The former New Zealand Prime Minister is outraged that his image has been used on a fake website which claims that the PM endorses bitcoin. The faux New Zealand Herald site, hosted overseas, features Key claiming that his $1,000 bitcoin investment is now worth $300 million. In reality, the former head of state, despite having currency trading experience, has never invested in bitcoin.
A typical cryptocurrency clickbait ad.
The scam is often perpetrated with the aid of Facebook ads that seek to lure investors in. The social media giant has been pilloried since the election of Donald Trump, over a year ago, for allowing fake news to flourish. Key told the Herald:
This is outrageous. People are at risk here and you’d think Facebook would take their responsibilities seriously.
The fake ad on the fake site that has enraged John Key
The quote attributed to Sir John Key has previously been attributed to Sir Richard Branson, among others. The New Zealand politician is just one of many public figures whose brand has been borrowed to endorse everything from skin cream to scamcoins. Web users needn’t look far to discover similar ads, which infest every corner of the web. Cryptocurrency sites like Coinmarketcap have also come under fire for hosting ads for dubious cryptocurrency schemes.
Another day, another spammy bitcoin ad.
You’ll Never Guess What Happened Next
Streaming websites, which millions of sports fans use to view soccer events for free, monetize their service via spammy pop-ups and pop-under ads. Traditionally, these have been for pornography websites, but as bitcoin has rocketed in value, it has displaced sex as the web’s hottest commodity. While there’s little likelihood of these sites taking responsibility for their advertising content, Facebook has a greater duty of care. The social media giant cannot independently fact check each advert placed on its site, but it can certainly act faster to shut down ads that have been flagged for their veracity.
Fake ads have spawned an entire meme factory of spoofs like this one.
Fake news is as old as the web itself, and there is no easy fix to the problem. It’s just another tribulation that can be added to the long list of risks faced by newcomers to the cryptocurrency space. More can be done by web hosting companies and other service providers to shut down blatant scam sites. One thing they’re powerless to prevent, however, is human curiosity to discover this one weird trick.
What do you think can be done to shut down scam sites and fake ads? Let us know in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock.
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