If you’d stopped by the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) website this year to check the weather, you might of been privy to the world’s biggest scoop in tech news — Elon Musk was quitting Tesla, the electric car and battery business he founded, to join a Bitcoin startup.
The CNN tech website supposedly had the inside story, with the byline attributed to an actual CNN reporter.
Except it was fake news, which linked through to a fake CNN website involved in Bitcoin scams. And the government-owned weather service has labelled the appearance of the scam ad “unacceptable”, suspended the ad server responsible, and apologised for the incident.
The scam ad has been appearing on the BoM site since the start of 2018 and was flagged by the ABC last week.
The BoM wasn’t the only reputable organisation caught out by ad servers, with other seeing it on business websites such as Bloomberg.
You cannot make this stuff up. A Bloomberg article just served me a fake ad for a fake news story on a fake CNN Tech website about Elon Musk leaving Tesla to start a Bitcoin trading venture. pic.twitter.com/dxiMgQql4P
— Natasha Loder (@natashaloder) February 1, 2018
Advertising was introduced on the Bureau of Meteorology’s website in April 2013 following a review into revenue streams for the taxpayer-funded service.
The Bureau’s policy bans offensive material or ads directed at children, as well as pop-ups.
A BoM spokesperson told Business Insider in a statement that the third party provider responsible for delivering the fake ad had been suspended.
“It is not acceptable that these ads appeared on the Bureau’s website – they clearly do not meet the Bureau’s or the community’s expectations about the standard of advertising the Bureau would carry,” they said.
“During this suspension the Bureau will work with the third party to ensure that unacceptable advertising does not appear on the Bureau’s website again.”
While the BoM has “numerous filters in place, both automated and manual. Clearly they have not been effective enough in this instance”.
The spokesperson said some of the advertising on the BoM site was targeted specifically at the user based on their browsing history, and the fake Musk story appeared to those people.
“On the days the ads appeared, they comprised about 0.006% of the more than 35 million ads presented on the Bureau website,” they said.
“While this may be a small fraction of ads appearing on our website, it is still unacceptable and the Bureau sincerely apologises that this was allowed to happen.”
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