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Photo: Mario Tama / Getty Images

Newsweek Media Group, the publisher of Newsweek and the International Business Times, has allegedly been purchasing low-quality online traffic, a fraudulent move that helped the media company meet the requirements of a major ad buy from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau with IBT, BuzzFeed reports, citing a new report released on Thursday by Social Puncher, an ad fraud watchdog.

What (allegedly) happened: Social Puncher's report claims that IBT supplemented a drop in organic search traffic to its website with paid traffic that used redirected traffic from pop-up or pop-under ads from pirate streaming sites. The vast majority of the ads for the CFPB were served this way, making it likely that real people never saw them — or immediately clicked away — while still allowing IBT to meet the buy's traffic requirements.

Newsweek Media Group told BuzzFeed it has purchased audiences from ad networks, which is a “small percentage of traffic on our sites,” but denied any wrongdoing or fraudulent manipulation regarding its advertising contracts.

More problems for Newsweek Media Group, via the BuzzFeed report:

  • "This follows an October report from BuzzFeed News that revealed local content for IBT Australia is produced by writers in the Philippines, and its offices in Sydney were occupied by people who say they do not work for the company."
  • "A former high-ranking IBT editor said the content coming out of the company’s India and Manila operations often involved aggregation of conspiracy theories or dubious stories that were written up because they could get significant traffic."
  • "One current source of frustration and embarrassment for Newsweek staffers is that freelancers struggle to be paid in a timely manner. BuzzFeed News spoke with nine Newsweek contributors who said the company typically takes six months to pay an invoice, and only after constant requests for payment are made."

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
1 min ago - Economy & Business

Merger Monday has been overrun by SPACs

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Five companies this morning announced plans to go public via reverse mergers with SPACs, at an aggregate market value of more than $15 billion. And there might be even more by the time you read this.

The bottom line: SPAC merger activity hasn't peaked. If anything, it's just getting started.

Moderna says vaccine appears to protect against new COVID-19 variants

Photo: Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images

Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine is effective against new variants of the virus that first appeared in the U.K. and in South Africa, the company announced on Monday.

Yes, but: The vaccine was as effective against the strain from U.K., but saw a six-fold reduction in antibodies against the South Africa variant. Even still, the neutralizing antibodies generated by the vaccine "remain above levels that are expected to be protective," according to the company.

Dave Lawler, author of World
Updated 1 hour ago - World

Xi Jinping warns against "new cold war" in Davos speech

Chinese President Xi Jinping. Photo: Wang Zhao - Pool/Getty Images

Chinese President Xi Jinping warned that a "new cold war" could turn hot, and must be avoided, in a speech on Monday at World Economic Forum’s virtual “Davos Agenda” conference.

Why it matters: Xi didn't refer directly to U.S.-China tensions, but the subtext was clear. These were his first remarks to an international audience since the inauguration of President Biden, whose administration has already concurred with Donald Trump's determination that China is committing "genocide" against Uyghur Muslims, and issued a warning about China's aggression toward Taiwan.