Yesterday, we highlighted a story that pulled back the curtain on the shady world of media sites paying for traffic – a practice that countless social-media influencers and AdSense scammers have employed for years to help monetize their respective platforms.
As it turns out, IBT Media, the publisher of Newsweek and the International Business Times, reportedly schemed to buy fraudulent traffic in order to help secure a major ad contract from a US government agency. A group that investigates fraudulent web traffic initially published the findings, which comport with a story from Buzzfeed news about IBT India.
Now, Thinknum, a FinTech company that analyzes web traffic, has published a report on its blog alleging that SpeedDate.com, one of the 45 web properties owned by Match.com, misleads users by publishing fake engagement data on its homepage.
When the company’s analysts tried to verify the high level of activity (after all, the site regular advertises more than 2,500 singles “online now” – a huge number in many parts of the US) they discovered something disturbing in the website’s header files: A random number generator (highlighted in purple in the image above).
So we looked deeper – why wasn’t SpeedDate.com registering on our active users counts? Perhaps it’s because they don’t use Facebook login like their other properties, making it difficult for us to track activity? Perhaps it’s because they’re under the radar?
Or perhaps it’s because they lie?
When our engineers took a deeper look at SpeedDate.com to figure out how we could track activity – after all, 3,297 Singles Online Now is a lot, and we should be tracking this rising star of digital dating – we found something curious in their header files.
A random-number generator.
What’s perhaps even more galling is how the site is “monetized” – instead of relying solely on advertising traffic, real human users must pay for the service.
You may think this isn’t a big deal, but in an environment in which dating sites are exceedingly difficult to navigate, difficult to use, and sketchy on details, a company as big at Match shouldn’t be commiting a sin as fundamental as making up its usage numbers.
Perhaps SpeedDate.com is just a placeholder for something bigger. Maybe it’s a relic that Match is no longer feeding. That said, it still entices hapless singles to sign up, give out personal data, and get matched up with users that either don’t exist, or haven’t been using the site in years.
Oh – and to “verify your profile” you need to enter credit card information and get billed $0.99. After all, there are thousands of singles waiting to meet you, right?
To be sure, the author of the Thinknum post said the company isn’t sure what’s up with Speeddate.com these days, or if they’re even still active as a business. In 2008, they came under fire for some Facebook login shenanigans that got them banned from the social network. Regardless, their site is active – and they’re accepting signups.