Websites spreading disinformation make $235 million a year in ads – study

MANILA, Philippines – Websites posting false or extremist content online generate at least $235 million a year in ad revenue, according to a study from the Global Disinformation Index.

The Global Disinformation Index is a nonprofit organization that assesses media outlets and websites’ risk of spreading disinformation by providing them real-time automated risk ratings.

The organization surveyed 20,000 domains it suspected of spreading disinformation for the study. They reportedly looked at website’s traffic and their audience information, the kinds of ads they were running, and how much they made per visitor on ads.

Danny Rogers, chief technology officer at the Global Disinformation Index explained to CNN that advertisers do not always know or monitor where their ads end up due to the complex nature of the online advertising ecosystem, allowing the people behind these websites to profit from them.

"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," he added.

Meanwhile, Sleeping Giants, a social media activist group, wants to help solve this problem by running Facebook and Twitter accounts that alert companies if their ads are being run on sites that spread disinformation.

The organization’s founder Matt Rivitz said that advertisers must play a role in monitoring where their ads are displayed.

"Advertisers for a long time viewed media as reach and frequency, and now they have to view it with responsibility, too," he said. "It's bad for society if they're funding this hate and disinformation."

The full study was provided exclusively to CNN, but is expected to be published this September. –