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Unwrapping the Beef: YouTube Beauty Influencer Jaclyn Hill vs. Everyone

Unwrapping the Beef: YouTube Beauty Influencer Jaclyn Hill vs. Everyone

Illustration for article titled Unwrapping the Beef: YouTube Beauty Influencer Jaclyn Hill vs. Everyone
Image: Getty

Somehow, almost every YouTuber is problematic, and for whatever reason, the beauty community seems to really bring out the dregs. In the shadow of the James Charles/Tati Westbrook/Jeffree Star controversy comes another, this time, with seemingly decent human-influencer Jaclyn Hill. For nearly a decade, Hill has taught nobodies how to get Instagram-hot with tutorials and, as of 2015, various cosmetics through her own collaborative lines. That might be coming to an end after fans found mold, black spots, and white hairs on her lipsticks. It’s gross. Let’s unpack this fungus-y beef!

June 8, 2019

Though Jaclyn has collaborated with makeup companies like Morphe in the past for her own collections, in June she finally launched her own brand, Jaclyn Cosmetics, with 20 $18 nude lipsticks. Fans immediately noticed something was up with them—deformities, hairs, fungus, fibers, bumps, fuzz, air bubbles, you name it—and vocalized their concerns on social media. Many uploaded their own YouTube reviews. This “THE TRUTH ABOUT JACLYN HILL COSMETICS LIPSTICKS” is nearly an hour long and has nearly 4 million views:

Hill responded on Twitter by writing, “If any of you are receiving lipsticks like this…. please know that this is NOT hair! My factory used brand new white gloves to do quality control & they shed all over my product! We switched to rubber gloves 2 days ago & will make sure this never happens again.” She later added, “My team and I are working very hard on finding out EXACTLY what is causing the “grittiness & bumpy texture” on some of my lipsticks. I am so sorry to see some of you dissatisfied with my product. I will make it right for you & learn from this mistake! That’s a promise” and instructed dissatisfied costumers to reach out: “I’m so sorry if the product you received was anything less than perfect. If you are unsatisfied in ANY way please contact & we will be sure to give you a full refund as well as send you a new product.”

June 12, 2019

Hill responded to the accusations—where else, but YouTube, in a respectfully demonetized 14-minute video—and released a statement. Via Refinery 29:

“We are distressed to learn that a small percentage of our customers have received lipstick with quality issues related to the texture and the look-and-feel of the lipsticks. We would like to reassure customers that while it is unacceptable for these quality issues to have occurred, there are no safety concerns related to the lipsticks.”

There’s more, denying the accusations from fans and clarifying that their product isn’t expired:

“We want to provide assurances to customers who may have heard that our products are old, or contain mold — this is false. Our launch collection was manufactured in May 2019. The preservative system, material composition of the formula, and processing temperature of our lipstick does not support microbial growth and protects the product through the expiration date of May 2021.”

Sure! In the video, Hill blames the lab that she used to which I say, get a better lab?

June 22, 2019

Jaclyn Hill Cosmetics responded on Twitter, fully realizing this isn’t something that can be swept under the rug, and offered full refunds.

June 28, 2019

Jaclyn deleted all of her social media accounts—Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat—with the exception of YouTube. Fans assume it is because of her damaged makeup and the fallout. One theory I personally appreciate is this person who thinks it is a temporary deactivation so Hill won’t loose followers:

Then—O.G. beauty influencer Marlena Stell posted an hour and a half (!!!) long video, essentially calling out influencers and outlining her friendship with Hill while making a few damning accusations. She claims she used the same lab Hill used for a few concealers that never saw the light of day because they were contaminated. “They had shards of plastic in them, they had finger prints, they had hairs in them, they had black specks in them. Does that sound familiar?” she says in the video.

Stell also claims she saw Hill at the lab and told her not to work with them but, lol, who cares about consumers?

What does it all mean?

Nothing, other than the fact that BeauTubers really don’t know how to handle a scandal. I doubt Hill’s gone for good—she will emerge when enough time has passed, or when another YouTuber controversy takes over. The day is young. I await the followup apology video with bated breath.

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[This unedited press release is made available courtesy of Gamasutra and its partnership with notable game PR-related resource GamesPress.]


LAS VEGAS, March 12, 2019 – The Tetris® brand is taking the fashion and beauty world by storm. As the iconic video game brand celebrates its 35th anniversary, The Tetris Company, Inc., today announced the biggest expansion of its lifestyle product offering to date with a slate of highly fun, unique collections by many of the fashion and beauty industries’ most on-trend and innovative brands. The new product lines will debut, respectively, at each brand’s online or retail locations in the United States, China, Japan and beyond in 2019.

“It’s the Tetris brand’s 35th anniversary and our most stylish year yet.  We are very excited to announce an incredible slate of new licensee partners, consisting of many of the hottest names in beauty and fashion, who will be introducing new Tetris-inspired collaborations in the coming months,” said Maya Rogers, President and CEO of Blue Planet Software, the sole agent for the Tetris brand. “From makeup and accessories to T-shirts, day wear, socks, baby gear and more, fans will have a range of smart, modern designs to show their distinct personalities and affinity for Tetris.”

New Tetris Fashion and Beauty Licensees

Partners who will introduce new Tetris-branded collaborations in 2019 include:

Collections Coming to the United States

  • FairPlay: A Los Angeles-based clothing brand, inspired by action, FairPlay set out to not just talk about what needs to change, but to create those changes. Its mission is to prove that ‘All Is Fair’ and to unshackle ourselves from the conforming and accepting the norm, standing for those that blaze their own path and live life as freethinkers. Beginning in fall, FairPlay will introduce its Tetris-brand collection including graphics t-shirts, hoodies and sweatpants.
  • ipsy: Inspiring individuals around the world to express their unique beauty, ipsy connects their community of over 3 million members with one another to discover new products, looks and brands that highlight their personal beauty preferences. The experience is centered around the Glam Bag and Glam Bag Plus, a personalized package filled with five of the latest makeup and beauty products for them to try. In June, ipsy will introduce a limited edition Tetris x ipsy Glam Bag and cosmetic collection to celebrate Tetris’ 35th anniversary. 
  • Kanga Care: A provider of high quality cloth diapers with patented leak protection, in addition to baby accessories and gear.  For millennial parents and Tetris fans alike, this June, the company will launch the first line ever introduced of Tetris-branded items for babies, including diapers, diaper covers, blankets, changing pads and more.
  • Sock It to Me: Since 2004, Sock It to Me has been making awesome things you can wear that bring out your colorful confident self, including bold socks and underwear that laugh defiantly at the world’s expectations. This summer, they’ll debut new Tetris-brand socks for men and women.


Collections Coming to China

  • GXG: Established in 2007, GXG is dedicated to fusing classic style with popular elements inspired from prevalent trends. It also strives to be young and appealing, which is reflected in its spiffy cutting, fancy color matching, high-quality fabric choice and innovative technologies. The brand aims to offer the new generation of young Asian men a distinctive, chic, and premium dressing choice. GXG will introduce its Tetris-brand collaboration this summer at more than 1,000 GXG standalone and online stores in China.
  • PEACEBIRD: One of the top fashion brands in mainland China, PEACEBIRD’s mission is to “Let Everyone Enjoy the Fun of Fashion” by providing customers with fashion products of high quality at competitive prices. The brand premieres its new Tetris capsule collection for its women label Peacebird Women, including dresses and tops, this spring / summer.


Collections Coming to Japan & U.S.

  • Baroque Japan: A provider of fashion-savvy apparel and accessories for men, women and children, their brand MOUSSY will introduce a new Tetris 35th anniversary T-shirt collection in Japan, as well as exclusively in the United States at their Soho NYC location, this June.


Collection Coming to Markets Worldwide

  • MC2 SAINT BARTH: Offers beachwear collections designed for a man who loves to be elegant and trendy when he goes to the beach, with a perfect fit, shining colors and great fast drying microfiber. This spring, the company will introduce new board shorts for men featuring the iconic Tetriminos. Saint Barth MC2 products are available on

These new fashion and beauty collaborations were secured in partnership with the Tetris brand’s growing global licensing agent network, including Blitz Licensing in the United States, IMG in Asia, Dentsu Inc. in Japan and Maurizio Distefano: The Evolution of Licensing in Italy.

About the Tetris® Brand

The Tetris® brand is one of the leading and most distinctive video game brands and franchises in the world. Now celebrating its 35th anniversary year, the brand continues to be loved globally by people of all ages and all cultures. Billions of Tetris games are played online every year, and over 500 million Tetris mobile games have been downloaded to date. The Tetris brand’s global licensee network includes major video game publishers, including Electronic Arts, Ubisoft and Sega, as well as many partners in electronics, toys, apparel, lifestyle goods, entertainment and more. Tetris Holding, Inc., is the owner of Tetris rights worldwide, and The Tetris Company, Inc. is its exclusive licensee. For the latest information about the Tetris brand and Tetris products, please visit

Become a fan of Tetris on Facebook ( and follow Tetris on Twitter (@Tetris_Official) and Instagram (@Tetris_Official).

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Blackface worn by ABC stars is a ‘private matter’: Bob Iger

Blackface worn by ABC stars is a ‘private matter’: Bob Iger

At Disney, blackface is a “private matter,” according to CEO Bob Iger.

The Mouse House CEO evaded questions Thursday about how it handled recent revelations that ABC stars Jimmy Kimmel and Joy Behar wore blackface in the past.

“This particular incident we choose to deal with as a private matter,” Iger told shareholders at the company’s meeting in St. Louis.

“We don’t condone the use of blackface under any circumstance in our world today,” Iger said. “We dealt with the incidences privately. We did not feel it required any particular comment.”

Iger said the issue was dealt with “swiftly” but he declined to elaborate.

Neither Behar nor Kimmel wore blackface while working for ABC, but questions about both stars’ pasts arose recently.

Kimmel’s blackface controversy centered on a video clip of the late night talk show host impersonating former NBA player Karl Malone and Oprah Winfrey while wearing dark makeup, which aired on“The Man Show,” a Comedy Central Series that ended in 2004.

Behar was questioned after a 2016 clip of “The View” emerged showing the co-host showcasing a photo of herself dressed as “a beautiful African queen” at a Halloween party when she was 29.

Iger made the comments after a Disney shareholder stood up to say he was “puzzled” by how Disney, which owns ABC, did not condemn the comedians.

The shareholder, Justin Danhof of conservative think tank National Center for Public Policy Research, said Disney’s silence reeked of “hypocrisy” given criticism ABC personalities, including Behar, have lobbed at other people entangled in blackface controversies, including former NBC host Megyn Kelly.

Reached by The Post, Danhof said he’s still waiting for an answer to his question.

“They are handling the issue privately? What does that even mean? Did they have their pay docked? Were they suspended?” he said. “Bob Iger is the most powerful man in Hollywood. I just wanted to know what the standards were.”

Iger was equally coy on the timing of the company’s planned acquisition of Twenty-First Century Fox, only saying the much-anticipated deal will close “soon.”

Disney agreed to buy Fox’s film and TV assets for $71.3 billion last year as part of its grand plan to take on streaming giants Netflix and Amazon. Iger said Fox’s studio legacy will live on after the companies merge because Fox, FoxSearchlight and FX will continue to create content under their respective names.

Some 57 percent of shareholders also approved Iger’s post-deal compensation package of up to $35 million.

Last year, 52 percent of Disney’s shareholders voted down Iger’s pay, which experts estimate to be worth $300 million over a four-year period. That prompted the company to slash Iger’s post-merger compensation by $13.5 million ahead of this week’s vote.

At the end of the meeting, a young shareholder who was feting her 12th Disney meeting asked the one question that made Iger squirm.

“I’m planning on being in Los Angeles in June and I was wondering if I could take you out to lunch?” said the shareholder, who identified herself as “Corey from Arizona.”

“In terms of lunch… I’m looking at my team here. We can negotiate that,” a panicked Iger said, before mumbling to himself. “Is that a rejection? I don’t know. I may sound mean.”

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Briefly but blissfully, Age Of Ultron plays like an Avengers hangout movie

Briefly but blissfully, Age Of Ultron plays like an Avengers hangout movie

Age Of HeroesWith Age Of Heroes, Tom Breihan picks the most important superhero movie of every year, starting with the genre’s early big-budget moments and moving onto the multiplex-crushing monsters of today.  

One day, we’ll get the Avengers party movie. Maybe. Hopefully. The best scene of Joss Whedon’s 2015 blockbuster Avengers: Age Of Ultron arrives early on, after the Avengers bust up a HYDRA compound in Eastern Europe and retrieve Loki’s stolen scepter. They’ve all returned to the Avengers Tower in New York, and they just enjoy each other’s company. That’s it. Nothing really happens. It’s glorious.

Stan Lee gets drunk. People make fun of War Machine for telling a story that doesn’t really go anywhere. Everyone sits around trying to lift Thor’s hammer, and Thor briefly freaks when Captain America budges it just the tiniest bit. Black Widow suddenly starts heavily flirting with Bruce Banner, almost out of nowhere. (That whole thing would’ve been better if the movie treated it as a drunk office-party one-off rather than the beginning of a tragically doomed love story, but it’s fun nonetheless.) After going to great pains to build the Avengers’ team chemistry in his previous movie, Whedon spends a couple of minutes basking in it. Then, of course, Ultron suddenly appears, possessing one of Tony Stark’s robots, and starting to wreak havoc. There’s plenty of other good stuff in Age Of Ultron, but it never quite recovers after the party ends.

There’s a sort of logic to action movies: You tolerate the scenes of dialogue and exposition to get to the fights. The idea, I suppose, is that you can’t have a movie that’s nothing but action—though Mad Max: Fury Road and The Raid: Redemption, among others, have proven that that’s possible. Standard logic says you need scenes where you build character and chemistry and plot and motivation, and these things aren’t easy to do in the context of an action scene. But the action scenes are the reason why people turn up to those movies. They’re the reason you keep your finger on fast-forward when you’re rewatching a Mission: Impossible movie.

The movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have inverted that whole dynamic. The action scenes are grand and elaborate and impressive, but they’re not what gets anyone in the door. Instead, the bits of Marvel movies that people love, the bits that keep them coming back, are the scenes in between the action. They’re the throwaway jokes, the deep breaths, the moments of quiet bonding. The action scenes themselves can be obligatory or stapled on. They can also be overly loud and showy, and they can take away from the rest of the movie. That’s what happens in Age Of Ultron. That’s its grand and fatal flaw.

Age Of Ultron is, by virtually any measure, a vastly successful movie. It pulled in about $1.5 billion globally, making the fourth-highest-grossing movie of 2015, globally speaking. It was the second-most-expensive movie ever made, and yet it still turned a tidy profit. It helped keep the characters in the forefront of people’s minds, and it kept the Marvel machine chugging along. People, by and large, liked it.

Whedon took on the thankless task of building a coherent narrative with an even more crowded cast than he’d had in the first Avengers movie, and he made sure everyone got moments to shine. He effectively seeded in bits that foreshadowed the next few years of Marvel movies. (Before rewatching, I’d forgotten that Ulysses Klaue, Andy Serkis’ delightful secondary Black Panther villain, was even in the movie.) But within the context of Marvel’s remarkable run, Age Of Ultron is half a misstep, a loud and overwhelming spectacle that ultimately doesn’t leave much of an impression.

A few days after the movie came out, Whedon said that the experience of working with Marvel had become “really, really unpleasant.” He and the studio had come into conflict over a few key scenes. Whedon didn’t like the scene of Thor having visions in a cave, and Marvel wanted to keep it. Marvel didn’t like the different Avengers’ dream-sequence scenes, and Whedon wanted to keep them. (All of those scenes are, honestly, pretty bad, and none of them really serves a purpose. They should’ve listened to each other and cut them.) Marvel also wasn’t thrilled about the extended interlude at Hawkeye’s farm—a crucial pause that still comes off awkwardly in the context of the movie. When you’re watching the movie, it’s pretty clear that different creative people were working against each other, fighting to make sure they got their shit in. It’s messy and disjointed, and it keeps the movie from coming together as a whole.

There’s also a surprising amount of stuff in the movie that just doesn’t work. After watching a couple of times, I’m still not sure whether the Scarlet Witch implanted the idea to create Ultron in Tony Stark’s head; the movie introduces the possibility without ever really exploring it. The bit where a pre-physical-form Ultron attacks a pre-physical-form JARVIS— envisioned as two balls of light shooting beams at each other—just sucks. Tony Stark continues to wear the worst cool-guy shit in the world; the T-shirt with Bruce Lee DJ-ing triggered instant revulsion in me.

Ultron himself is a problem, too. Whedon had a smart idea in getting a cold, predatory James Spader to voice him. But the character himself still comes off as a messily conceived plot device. His entire motivation, to create a peaceful world by destroying the Avengers and maybe humanity, never coheres as anything other than generic villain nonsense. Ultron is supposed to be a sentient being created partly out of the minds of Tony Stark and Bruce Banner, but that doesn’t quite explain why we see an all-powerful robot having rageful breakdowns. The character design is gallingly ugly. I could go on.

But even Ultron isn’t as bad as the Vision, an utterly useless waste of space right down to his convoluted origin story. Pity Paul Bettany, who came into the Marvel Cinematic Universe on day one, with a cushy voice gig, and who then found himself spending hours in makeup chairs, being turned red. In the comics, the Vision is a layered character, a confused automaton stumbling toward his own humanity. In the movies, he’s a vast energy-sucking blank, probably the most useless character to appear in multiple MCU movies. I continue to detest the bit where he tosses around Thor’s hammer like it’s nothing, thus invalidating the whole cool buildup where nobody else is worthy to handle the thing.

These aren’t quite quibbles, but they aren’t fatal flaws either. Age Of Ultron is still a fun movie, a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. There are moments of comic-book bullshit that continue to make my heart sing, like Iron Man getting his Hulkbuster armor from a missile fired by a satellite, and Black Widow dropping out of a Quinjet on a speeding motorcycle. The action scenes themselves, often conceived in extended slo-mo tracking shots, have a video-gamey element, and the CGI becomes a bit much at times, but they’re also intricately planned-out to the tiniest detail. We see the characters making split-second decisions that fit what we know about them, and their camaraderie comes through in battle. Even Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Quicksilver, a nothing character with a dumb accent and powers that looked cooler when they were in X-Men: Days Of Future Past, gets in one genuinely moving mid-fight moment. It’s the moment where he dies, but still.

The movie sets up future movies so delicately that you almost don’t know what you’re seeing as you’re seeing it. The mere mention of Wakanda should be a giant red blinking arrow, but it’s only in there as a casual aside. Captain America and Iron Man bicker the way that they did in the first Avengers, but that bickering reveals a central schism. Tony Stark thinks of himself as a hard-bitten realist, but the preemptive moves he makes ensure that things turn out worse—something that continues to happen in real life, with other self-identified realists. Steve Rogers sees this and tries to stop it, but Stark never listens. And there’s also the presence of the looming off-world danger that nobody can name but everyone can feel—something that would become a whole lot more concrete when Thanos and his envoys finally showed up a few movies later.

And one of the intriguing things about Age Of Ultron, and about almost all the Marvel movies that followed, is the way it works in conversation with the other superhero movies of the era. In Man Of Steel, Zack Snyder showed us a vision of Superman who protects the whole of humanity while allowing vast numbers of humans to die. There’s wide-scale devastation in Age Of Ultron, too. That devastation, and the guilt that Tony Stark feels over it, has wide-reaching implications in future Marvel movies. But the film also takes pains to show the Avengers doing everything they can to protect on-the-street bystanders, even if it means putting their lives on the line to do it. I don’t think anyone in the movie would ever come out and say it, but that works as a full-on rebuke of Snyder’s movie, of his whole deal.

Unlike Snyder, Whedon understands and respects his characters, and he knows how to use them to weave a narrative. That’s great. And yet Age Of Ultron never hits the same sweet spot that the first Avengers did. It also underscores the magnitude of what the Russo brothers later pulled off in Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, movies with even more characters to juggle that still have better action scenes, better character moments, and better comic relief.

Age Of Ultron would’ve been better without Ultron. It would’ve been better if we’d never left the party. Maybe one day we’ll get a movie like that: a pure Dazed And Confused-style hangout movie, one that doesn’t need a supervillain or an exploding city or maybe even a plot. Maybe a couple of superheroes can sneak off to foil a supermarket robbery. Maybe there’s a brief and drunken punch-up when a couple of them push each other’s buttons too hard. Maybe there’s a hookup that’s not supposed to happen. But we don’t need anything more than that. Marvel has already invested a ton of work into storing up endless reservoirs of goodwill for its characters. They’ve done it so well that I wish, sometimes, that they’d let those characters just be.

Other notable 2015 superhero movies: Marvel’s other movie that year was the long-gestating Ant-Man, a heist comedy that was originally supposed to come from the giddily inventive auteur Edgar Wright. Wright left the movie when he and Marvel couldn’t get on the same page, and we tend to look at that as one of the great lost opportunities of superhero movies. But Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man, with its antic tone and its fun supporting cast and Paul Rudd’s charismatically clueless lead performance, remains an unlikely blast. And anyway, Marvel eventually did figure out how to work with distinctive directors. It just took a little while.

In non-MCU Marvel news, Josh Trank made one of the all-time colossal fuckups when he tried to turn the story of the Fantastic Four, Marvel’s zippy and colorful Silver Age first family, into a dark-and-gritty body-horror plod. Trank’s Fantastic Four, which he disowned immediately upon release, only barely counts as a movie. It’s a series of cosmic-stoner musings, held together with tragically shitty special effects, leading up to absolutely nothing other than the standard-issue everyone-stares-at-a-beam-of-light final set-piece. It remains mind-boggling that no movie has yet managed to figure out a remotely compelling use for Doctor Doom, an all-time top-three comic-book supervillain. The one thing I like about Trank’s Fantastic Four is the still-developing tradition of hiring tremendously overqualified future stars to play the Human Torch, and then those actors (first Chris Evans, then Michael B. Jordan) finding much better roles within the MCU proper.

Matthew Vaughn’s slick secret-agent splatter-fest Kingsman: The Secret Service probably doesn’t technically count as a superhero movie, but it shows Vaughn doing much better things with Mark Millar’s edge-lord nihilism than the director managed with the actual superhero movie Kick-Ass. Kingsman finds more effective ways to deploy both freewheeling wit and indiscriminate gore-explosions, and the scene of Colin Firth brutally murdering a whole church full of motherfuckers is an all-timer.

And then there’s Batkid Begins, the documentary about what happened on the one day that an entire city got together to make a kid feel like a superhero—a movie that gets at the whole idea of why we care about these movies, and these characters, in the first place.

Next time: Deadpool takes brutal and often-stupid delight in skewing the entire superhero-movie institution while still existing within that tradition.

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Oracle discovered a mobile fraud operation plaguing 10 million app downloads, and it shows how pervasive scammers still are for advertisers

Oracle discovered a mobile fraud operation plaguing 10 million app downloads, and it shows how pervasive scammers still are for advertisers

  • Oracle has identified a new mobile-app fraud operation it dubbed DrainerBot that has infected more than 400 popular Android apps like “Draw Clash of Clans” and Perfect365.
  • Ad fraud continues to be a challenge for advertisers as scammers get more sophisticated with their tactics.
  • All told, Oracle estimates that the infected apps are costing mobile users extra data charges to the tune of $100 a year.

Fraud in digital advertising still runs rampant, particularly in mobile apps.

Last year, Oracle started noticing unusual browsing activity in more than 400 Android apps using a tried-and-true fraud tactic: domain spoofing, in which scammers create hidden web pages to run ads that consumers never see. The tactic has been around for years in websites and more recently in mobile apps and connected TVs, though the mobile-app fraud operation differs in a couple of ways.

For one, it plugs in to popular apps like Perfect365, an augmented-reality app that lets users virtually try on makeup, and app-based games like “Draw Clash of Clans” and “Solitaire: 4 Seasons.” Typically, fraudsters target less popular apps that consumers are tricked into downloading. All told, Oracle estimates that the scheme it dubbed “DrainerBot” has affected more than 10 million devices, making it one of the larger fraud operations in recent years. The operation was detected by Oracle’s digital analytics arm Moat and its security-focused firm Dyn.

Read more: Mobile ad fraud continues to surge as scammers get smarter — with in-app fraud increasing by as much as 800% this year

Because fake video impressions are served in the background of the infected apps, there’s also a direct connection to user experience and consumers’ phone bills, said Eric Roza, the senior vice president of Oracle Data Cloud.

Specifically, Oracle said the scheme slowed loading speeds of websites caused from ad activity running in the background of apps and was adding charges to phone bills from data. Oracle estimates that the scheme drains 10 gigabytes of data a month from infected apps, costing people the equivalent of roughly $8 a month (or $100 a year) in added data overage charges.

“We’re used to the fact that marketers are defrauded and paying for ad impressions that no one is seeing,” Roza said. “What’s unique here is, this is the largest-scale fraud operation that we’re aware of. What’s especially nefarious here is that once these apps are loaded on your phone, you don’t actually need to log in, and they can be running very high bandwidth video ad impressions in the background.”

A spokesperson for Google said that the company is working with Moat, and used the company’s research to take action. Google said that most of the infected apps had previously been removed from its Google Play app store and is investigating two active apps.

“Google was notified about Moat’s findings and has worked with their team to address the fraudulent activity,” the spokesperson said. “We have done extensive research into this case to ensure the invalid activity is addressed as comprehensively as possible — both within ads and in [Google] Play.”

Consumers are getting hit with additional data costs

Here’s how DrainerBot works: Oracle identified a Netherlands-based firm called Tapcore as the tech company distributing the apps. Tapcore provides app developers with software-development-kit technology that helps publishers find scammers who create illegal copies of their apps. The company’s technology then runs ads within the illegal apps, which allows publishers to track down the illegal app copies. According to Tapcore’s website, the company powers more than 3,000 apps, though Oracle tracked only 400 apps.

“That sounds like a fair value prop, and that’s why so many app developers large and small end up installing it,” said Dan Fichter, Moat’s chief technology officer.

According to a Tapcore spokesperson, the company is investigating the operation.

“Tapcore strongly denies any intentional involvement with the supposed ad fraud scheme, and is extremely surprised and alarmed by the allegations and attempt to connect the company with the scheme,” the company said in a statement. “At the moment of first hearing about the DrainerBot ad fraud scheme, Tapcore began immediate internal investigation to see whether any such code was ever distributed through its network without its knowledge. The company is ready to cooperate with all interested parties and provide all results on its findings. Openness and transparency is paramount in the mobile advertising industry, and Tapcore is prepared to share all data and results.”

According to Oracle, Tapcore’s technology runs ads in all apps, regardless of whether they’re legitimate. In some cases, users paid for an ad-free version of the app but video ads continued to run in apps within hidden web browsers. Once an app developer integrates Tapcore’s code technology, it reaches out to an ad server to download additional code, which runs the domain spoofing continuously.

DrainerBot’s scheme is particularly sophisticated because it targets inventory that ad-verification companies think is real inventory on a legitimate publisher.

Ad fraud has been a hot-button topic for years, and while some estimates from firms like White Ops say fraud issues will become less problematic in coming years, fraudsters also constantly refine their tactics to get stealthier, making it hard for advertisers to ever eliminate.

Two operations, dubbed Methbot and 3ve, are the most noteworthy ad-fraud schemes and date back to 2014. Methbot is thought to have wasted $7 million in ad spend, while 3ve collected more than $29 million from advertisers. In November, the Justice Department charged eight people with being associated with the two operations, making three arrests.

More recently, the ad-verification company DoubleVerify identified a botnet that targeted connected-TV devices.

“You get a cat-and-mouse game,” Roza said. “That’s what makes DrainerBot particularly interesting — they’re using some of the techniques that we’ve seen people use on desktop before, but they’re basically applying them to the mobile environment and finding unique ways of getting on consumers’ devices.”

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