Hey, Reddit. Quick question. All those clicks on my ads. Were they actually real?

Advertiser takes super-forum to court after demand for evidence rebuffed

Reddit was sued by an unhappy advertiser who claims that internet giga-forum sold ads but provided no way to verify that real people were responsible for clicking on them.

The complaint [PDF] was filed this week in a US federal court in northern California on behalf of LevelFields, a Virginia-based investment research platform that relies on AI. It says the biz booked pay-per-click ads on the discussion site starting September 2022; as the name suggests, the advertiser pays a little bit for every click on one of its adverts.

That arrangement called for Reddit to use reasonable means to ensure that LevelField's ads were delivered to and clicked on by actual people rather than bots and the like. But according to the complaint, Reddit broke that contract.

Click fraud, the filing explains, occurs when a person or program clicks on an ad with no intention of doing business with the advertiser. These ad interactions may come from competitors who wish to inflict charges upon a rival or by publishers who wish to increase the fees they collect, among other possible scenarios.

Ad fraud of this sort has been a persistent problem in the industry, which is why ad buyers commonly demand performance audits and sellers often refund invalid clicks. But the amount of detail vendors provide to clients varies.

Reddit, in its S-1 filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, a precursor to its public stock offering in March, addresses ad integrity concerns directly. "To help advertisers understand if their reach was effective, we offer solutions such as Oracle Moat-verified viewability, audience verification through NCSolutions, and DoubleVerify for fraud," the document explains.

Its cautionary boilerplate also calls out click fraud as a potential risk. "While we invest in efforts to detect and prevent inauthentic content or invalid traffic, including investments in proprietary technologies to detect and address content and vote manipulation, we may be unable to adequately detect and prevent such abuses," the S-1 says.

LevelFields argues that Reddit is in a particularly good position to track click fraud because it's serving ads on its own site, as opposed to third-party properties where it may have less visibility into network traffic. And the social media player, it's claimed, has provided rebates for illegitimate ad clicks in the past.

Nonetheless, LevelFields's effort to obtain IP address data to verify the ads it was billed for went unfulfilled. The social media site "provided click logs without IP addresses," the complaint says. "Reddit represented that it was not able to provide IP addresses."

The investment firm argues this is false "because Reddit has to know where traffic was coming from for security and monitoring purposes." And in the event that it doesn't, the biz argues, Reddit has failed to meet minimal standards for security and click monitoring on its platform. The plaintiffs aspire to have their claim certified as a class action.

According to Juniper Research, 22 percent of ad spending last year was lost to click fraud, amounting to $84 billion.

Reddit did not immediately respond to a request for comment. ®

More about


Send us news

Other stories you might like