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Ad quality year in review 2017

Search advertising plays a crucial role in the digital economy because almost every consumer decision journey today begins with an online search. It is a win for both advertisers and users as it helps users find information faster by promoting relevant businesses. Despite the positive aspects, like any online marketplace, search advertising is also vulnerable to bad actors. Bad actors create content that violates Bing Ads editorial policies and puts Bing users, good advertisers, and publishers at risk to reel in potential victims. This is nothing new, and we constantly work to mitigate risk associated with new attack vectors targeting different search results.

Every ad loaded into the Bing Ads system is subject to automated and/or manual checks to ensure compliance with Bing Ads policies, which are maintained by our policy experts. We leverage a combination of safeguards for maintaining clean ads ecosystem:
  • machine learning techniques to power our automation systems
  • domain expertise of our operations team
  • user safety experts to keep current with the new risk dimensions
In addition to above, we also benefit from signal intelligence available to us via wide array of Microsoft products to enhance our detection capabilities required to keep our search users safe.

Ad quality assurance performance for 2017

In 2017, we weeded out 650 million bad ads, 5x more than in 2016. 60,000 websites and 90,000 bad actors were also removed from our system.

How bad actors operate

Trademark infringement

We have found that some bad actors abuse legitimate brands to mislead people by claiming to provide services on behalf of these companies. In addition to this trademark-violating behavior, there is also the potential for social engineering which could be used to mislead a user to believe they are working with the brand owner. In this case, a user could be conned into spending money on a fraudster who will never send the desired product. We rejected 65 million ads for trademark violation in 2017.

Tech scams

Tech scams are widely used by bad actors and we rejected 25 million ads in this category in 2017. One of the tech scam pattern was scareware. Users clicking on these ads are redirected to a website which produces a window that says that the user’s computer has been hacked. Some ads lead to a scary and convincing web page with the infamous Blue Screen of Death. All attempts to close the browser windows are rendered ineffective and users are instructed to call a toll-free helpline to resolve their computer issues. There is no help line at all as con artists are waiting for victims to dial in so that they can further scare them into purchasing expensive – and unnecessary – support packages.

In our endeavor to protect our users, we invested in new processes and systems to better detect scareware threats. As a result, 3,500 bad actors and 240 thousand bad ads involved in such scams were banned from the Bing Ads platform in 2017.

Counterfeit goods 

Apart from scareware, we saw increased attempts by bad actors to deceive users by advertising for counterfeit goods. Ad copies and landing pages for counterfeit goods highly resemble legitimate ones and often trick users into believing that they’re buying real products. We have improved our counterfeit detection system by working closely with brand owners to track and profile counterfeit sites. We proactively identified and banned 1,500 websites and 3,200 bad actors involved in counterfeiting for more than 50 luxury brands in 2017.

Phishing attacks

Phishing attacks can prove detrimental to users and therefore we invested in making our systems stronger to detect phishing attempts by scammers. We banned more than 10,000 bad actors from Bing Ads system attempting to conduct phishing.

Weapons content

Bing Ads disallows advertising of all weapons whose primary purpose is violence. In 2017, more than 1 million ads containing different weapons were rejected.

Misleading ads

Bad actors have always been creative in luring users into clicking misleading ads by claiming to provide remedies for blood pressure, quick rich schemes, weight loss solutions etc. Last year, we took down 30 million such ads, 20,000 such websites and 43,500 bad actors. 

Bad actors are always on the lookout for ways to exploit the latest trends and techniques to try to circumvent Bing Ads policy checks. It is a difficult game of cat-and-mouse with bad advertisers. Our fraud detection crew work around the clock to stay ahead of these bad actors and keep up with new fraud attack vectors.

Join hands with us

Bing Ads network has a strong global audience, and we are committed to a safe and high-quality search experience through continual improvement.  Technologies and industry regulations are always evolving, so our work to deliver a safe ad experience will keep evolving, too.  We highly value feedback from users, advertisers and partners and you can support us in our fight against bad ads by reporting ads which you believe to be malicious or in violation of our policies through our Bing Ads ad quality escalation form.