The advertisement to the right, which everyone who uses the internet ignores on a daily basis, leads those hapless enough to click on it into a large-scale web of bullshit diet products — including “pills made from African mangoes” and “potions made from exotic acai berries” — whose sales totals surpass $1 billion, somehow. “1 Tip for a Tiny Belly,” the Washington Post reports in an extensive exposé today, is part of an “affiliate” army of promoters and products, with catchy names like HCG Ultra Lean Plus on websites like Consumeronlinetips.com or Weeklyhealthnews.com, that offer free samples that turn into big charges and fake articles vouching for the weight loss tactics that probably don’t work. Now they’re under investigation.
In an action aimed at Internet promoters of acai berry products in April, the FTC filed 10 lawsuits against some of the companies and individuals behind the ads. The agency’s allegations are nearly identical in each case: that sites such as Consumeronlinetips.com aren’t legitimate news organizations, that the defendants can’t substantiate the claims of dramatic weight loss (“25 pounds in only four weeks!”) and that the sites’ operators don’t disclose that they have financial ties to the diet-product merchants they’re linking to.
After spending millions spreading the ads, the people who have glimpsed some version of it are said to total in the “tens of millions” over the last 18 months as it was pushed out by Google and other giant ad networks to sites including the Post itself, MSNBC and um, us, in all likelihood.
But just remember: we like your tummy the way it is.