YouTube accused of refusing to remove scam ads featuring deepfaked Elon Musk: "We found that the ad doesn't go against Google's policies"

YouTube users are noticing a sudden increase in the number of scammy ads on the platform, accompanied by distinterested moderation: a deepfake Elon pitching trading bots is the example bubbling virally up today on Reddit.

Jakob_G writes:

because these scam ads are getting so annoying i started reporting them every time i see one, because i do understand that there are probably millions of advertisers on YouTube and sometimes these scams don't get detected right away. So i also reported that Fake Elon Musk Ad, but the next day i get shown the exact same ad again, then i open my email inbox finding a YouTube email about my report stating "We decided not to take this ad down. We found that the ad doesn't go against Google's policies". The same goes for all four ads listed above, all reported, all apparently not against policy.

We seem to be at the event horizon of this stuff going totally out of control. Maybe the companies profiting from it sense that not much will be done about it any more, so there's no incentive to stop. And YouTube can just let the money roll automatically in until some particular example becomes a PR crisis and a human has to run some numbers. Some commenters already presume cheap AI moderation is what's going on here, but it hardly matters. Easy money finds an audience.

It's also possible that the reports themselves are fraudulent, but the complaints are echoed in other venues. Here's some from Hacker News:

I routinely see ads for fake medical treatments that they refuse to take these down when I report them despite the fact that the ads obviously violate Google's policies. So many of the ads on YouTube are for things that are obviously sketchy that when I see a new product I'm not familiar with for the first time in YouTube ad I just assume it is a scam.

I reported about 5 such ads just this moth, all clear financial scams impersonating well known people and companies in Czech republic (where I live), only to be told that youtube checked my claim and that the add in question doesn't break any youtube policy. Obviously nothing is forcing Google to deal with this in any way. But I wonder how could that work out for Google in the long run.

As it turns out there is a whole category in YouTubes ad system for Get-Rich-Quick schemes, as detailed out in this video (timestamped at the relevant time). Just today I saw my elderly father click on a YouTube ad link for a crypto scam copying Swedish televisions web layout he was reading it and I saw it at the corner of my eye. He has adblock installed, he disabled it because of the terms of service popup by YouTube.

What I'm seeing, pretty much everywhere, is a sudden infestation of dropshipping sites that themselves seem to be AI-generated and feel extremely temporary.