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The Lucrative World of Disinformation and Online Influencers

Disinformation is a lucrative business and a major challenge in today’s digital age. Understanding the sources of revenue and funding for misinformation is essential to debunking the lies and fostering a more informed and trustworthy online environment.

The profitable business of disinformation poses a significant challenge in the digital age. Online influencers are leveraging false narratives to generate substantial revenue through advertising, while tech giants like Google face scrutiny over their role in funding disinformation. This article explores the disconcerting trend of using disinformation for profit, highlighting a notable case and the efforts of organizations like Check My Ads Institute and Ad Fontes Media to combat this issue. Additionally, it delves into the various revenue streams utilized by disinformation publishers and the need for transparency and accountability in the online advertising industry.


One individual, known as Tim Pool, serves as a cautionary example of the consequences of relying on disinformation for financial gain. Pool experienced a loss of ad revenue when he was targeted in the Defund The Insurrectionists campaign. In an attempt to sustain his income, Pool ventured into launching a dropshipping coffee brand called Cast Brew Coffee. However, the transition from being a content creator to running a coffee business proved to be a daunting challenge, requiring significant resources and efforts.


ProPublica investigation revealed how Google’s ad practices contribute to the profitability of disinformation. Despite policies against ads on content with unreliable or harmful claims, major brands’ ads appeared on websites spreading false information about vaccines, COVID-19, climate change, and elections. The investigation exposed unequal enforcement of policies across different languages and regions.

In addition to the scandal surrounding ad practices, Google is facing two antitrust lawsuits and witnessing a decline in its search ads business. These developments have further raised questions about Google’s credibility and the transparency and integrity of its online ad business. The company’s involvement in funding disinformation adds to the growing concerns and casts a shadow over the entire digital advertising industry.


Websites spreading disinformation utilize various revenue sources, including display and content ads, sponsored content and affiliate ads, additional funding sources such as e-commerce, donations, and memberships, as well as undisclosed funders. These revenue streams enable disinformation to thrive and make it crucial to identify and address them.

The following are common types of revenue sources utilized by disinformation publishers:

  1. Display and Content Ads: Display ads are typically banners featured on the borders of a website, while content ads are designed to resemble a website’s actual content, such as articles. These ads are placed through programmatic advertising, an automated auction process that targets users based on their search history. Advertisers often remain unaware of where their ads may appear within this intermediary system.
  2. Sponsored Content and Affiliate Ads: Sponsored content refers to advertorials presented as editorial content but explicitly labeled as advertisements. These often include affiliate ads that direct users to external websites where products can be purchased. Websites hosting these ads receive payment through commission-based relationships with advertisers. Unlike programmatic advertising, sponsored content establishes a direct relationship between the content and the publisher.
  3. Additional Funding Sources: Websites promoting disinformation often leverage additional funding sources, including e-commerce (selling merchandise and health products), reader donations, and membership programs that provide exclusive content in exchange for payment. Membership-based revenue models can facilitate the creation of disinformation that evades fact-checkers due to the direct financial relationship.
  4. Undisclosed Funders: The most challenging revenue stream to track is undisclosed funding. Individuals, companies, or even states may finance disinformation campaigns without revealing their identities. This leaves no digital trail for investigators to follow, making it difficult to identify the true source of funding.


The Role of Check My Ads Institute: Organizations like Check My Ads Institute play a crucial role in combating disinformation. They address the issue by ensuring brand safety and promoting responsible advertising practices. Recognizing that racism, hate, and misinformation are often fueled and funded by the digital advertising industry, Check My Ads Institute aims to sever the financial lifeline that enables disinformation to proliferate.

Ad Fontes Media and Combatting Disinformation: Ad Fontes Media is dedicated to rating the news for reliability and bias. Since 2018, they have provided impartial ratings of news sources, allowing users to make informed decisions. Their comprehensive analysis covers all news and news-like content, including TV and podcasts. Ad Fontes Media aims to empower individuals to navigate the complex media landscape and make sound decisions based on reliable information.

Take control of your information intake and combat disinformation today! Utilize Ad Fontes Media’s service to have up to 5 articles per month rated for reliability and bias.

SAFEGUARDING AGAINST DISINFORMATION, SCAMS & MANIPULATION TECHNIQUES: To confront manipulation techniques effectively, it is essential to prioritize Information and Media Literacy, educating ourselves and others about the strategies employed by disinformation campaigns. By cultivating a discerning mindset and questioning the underlying motives of information, we can shield ourselves from manipulation and make well-informed choices. Furthermore, supporting independent journalism, fact-checking organizations, and reliable news sources plays a vital role in combating the spread of disinformation.To stay Informed and Empowered: Register for the Reclaim The Facts newsletter to receive our latest media and information literacy materials directly in your inbox. Also, you can follow us on social media to stay updated and receive timely notifications. By arming yourself with knowledge and resources, you can actively confront manipulation and make informed decisions.

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Safeguarding against disinformation:

Combatting disinformation, scams, and manipulation requires prioritizing Information and Media Literacy. Educate yourself and others about disinformation strategies, cultivate discernment, and question motivations to make informed choices. In addition, supporting independent journalism, fact-checking organizations, and reliable sources of information plays a crucial role in combating the spread of misinformation.

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