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Pirate movie websites and apps are making literal billions from ads

The wild part? Some of these ads come from well-known companies like Amazon and Facbeook.

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If you’ve been on the internet long enough, you’ve almost certainly run across your fair share of pirated entertainment websites that allow you to either download or stream movies illegally.

But did you know that some of the top pirate websites and apps are making literal millions of dollars off of ads featured on these sites? What’s more is that some of these ads are coming from reputable websites like Amazon, Facebook, and more.

As studied by the online safety nonprofit Digital Citizens Alliance and reported on by Bloomberg, these ads not only bring in approximately $1.3 billion each year but are also a vehicle for injecting users’ computers with malware and other forms of viruses.

Which, granted, I think most of us are aware that many of these ads and so-called “sponsored content” is malicious in nature, but it’s when you combine the real ads from “reputable” companies on these sites that things get tricky.

The report looked at the most popular pirating sites from June 2020 to May 2021. In total, it focused on approximately 6,000 websites and 900 apps.

4% of the ads on these sites came from major brands like those mentioned above. When dealing with in-app ads, that number jumps to nearly 25%.

The rest of the ads mainly came from the clickbaity type of ads you see on many sites – “You won’t believe this one simple trick” and “Users in Virginia need to know about this new law.” The rest of the ads were made up of adult content and ads from smaller companies.

It’s important to note that many of these legitimate ads aren’t there because the companies wanted them to be there, but because of how ad networks work. Regardless, for pirating sites, it helps add a bit of legitimacy and for users a bit of comfort, even if it is all based on false pretenses.

Another initiative, the Trustworthy Accountability Group, alerted Amazon of this issue in early 2021, and according to Bloomberg, the Jeff Bezos company has seen a large drop in the number of ads on pirate sites since then.

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