In a move that could shake up one of the leading online advertising verification company’s credibility, FilmOn Networks sued DoubleVerify for corporate libel, and reported its use of malware to Scotland Yard and the FBI. More to be updated soon.
The Wall Street Journal broke the news of the suit, which indicates that DoubleVerify flagged FilmOn inappropriately as a pornography site and a copyright infringer. As a result FilmOn says it has been blocked from several major online ad exchanges and lost millions of dollars in business. (FilmOn’s 40 million unique monthly users worldwide–mostly in the coveted demo of young men–make it a robust market for online advertising).
In researching the suit FilmOn reps say it also discovered malware produced by DoubleVerify and tied to a pop up ad scheme that has wrecked havoc on consumer’s computers worldwide. The virus–which can be found here–is clearly bound into DoubleVerify’s domaine and undeniably under the company’s control.
Oren Netzer, CEO of DoubleVerify, did not deny the existence of the company’s use of malware when he gave the Wall Street Journal his nonsensical explanation–that consumers are confusing the malware for the companies web crawling “spiders” by coincidence. Googling the name of the malware brings up many descriptions of the damages it causes, and instructions for getting rid of it.
DoubleVerify, which uses the slogan, “Trust in Advertising”, had been known to crawl the internet looking for examples of ads appearing on inappropriate sites with inappropriate content and then to use screenshots its bots take in pitch meetings with potential clients. It’s been compared to paying “protection money” to some street level mafia soldier.
UPDATE – Glassdoor.com advised TVMix that a former employee of Double Verify said “Management is fickle minded and generally inept at coming with a broad strategy to handle the growing competition” – Another disgruntled employee commented “Company is not respected in the industry”
Google and many other companies have questioned DoubleVerify’s methods and stats–but strangely the media has shied away from getting tough on the shady company. Perhaps because they don’t understand the implications of a kind of internet police force that has no oversight governing it. Perhaps because their editors and publishers are themselves afraid of DoubleVerify throwing them under the bus.
FilmOn is an easy target for DoubleVerify to blacklist because of its very public battles to push for reform in the television business “The fact that we are in Washington DC right now as a part of the online MVPD classification process is turning that tide,” said Alki David, CEO of FilmON Networks. “And these cut throat opportunists will no longer have cover for inappropriately flagging us.” The many lawsuits filed by major networks have sought to paint FilmOn as a copyright infringer when that has never been the case. In fact FilmOn has embarked on a massive content buying spree and has over 600 licensed channels at FilmOn.com.
DoubleVerify’s flagging FilmOn for pornography undermines any claims they make, says David, since FilmOn has exactly zero pornographic content. DoubleVerify, despite claiming to have a robust system to remedy problems, failed to change its misclassification after repeated communication from FilmOn proving there is no copyright infringement or adult content in FilmOn’s offerings.
The suit seeks to demonstrate that DoubleVerify has willfully acted in an unlawful and unethical manner which constituted both trade libel and deceptive advertising, and a deliberate effort to disrupt FilmOn’s business.
The suit points out that the malware–which DoubleVerify seeks to dismiss as some kind of fluke–has been running for four years (evidenced by the massive backlog of online complaints about it). And that FilmOn has filed good citizen style reports of the possibly criminal activity with the FBI and Scotland Yard (since the Delaware based DoubleVerify has an office in London). ”
In the Wall Street Journal, Netzer tried to obfuscate by saying the malware wis mistakenly appearing to consumers at the same time as DoubleVerify’s spiders appear—which clearly ignores the complaints on line about the malware disabling consumers’ computers. The paper also found an unnamed source at Adapt.TV, AOL’s ad serving arm, who made the claim that FilmOn has been flagged for using non-human traffic, or bots, to pump up numbers.
In response, David pointed out that not only has no one ever made that accusation to him in public or private, “It’s funny that adapt.tv still does business with us by selling our traffic. They have never said we were flagged for anything at all.”
He went on to explain, “We would never use bots. Besides, there is no point as non human traffic would show up on Google DFP which is what we use. Most if not all major ad server platforms including our clients can measure bot traffic. We are more than happy to open up our Google ad server for inspection. We are working with major Networks who have their own verification techniques and they are very happy to work with us.”
The suit was filed by Baker Marquart at the Superior Court for the State of California for the County of Los Angeles.
TV Mix is owned by FilmOn Networks.