In early August 2023, an advertisement was displayed to online users that claimed Oscar-winning actor George Clooney had come "out of the closet," apparently implying that he had recently revealed he is gay. The ad read, "Clooney, 64, Out of the Closet. At 64, George Clooney confirms the speculation."
This ad led to an extremely lengthy list article on reference.com that showed the headline, "Stars You May Not Know Are LGBTQ+."
The article began as follows:
The entertainment industry has long been a space where members of the LGBTQ+ community have thrived, despite the societal pressures that have often kept them in the shadows. From the early days of Hollywood to the present day, there have been countless stars who identify as LGBTQ+, but many have kept their identities hidden for fear of retribution or damage to their careers. However, with the rise of LGBTQ+ rights and representation in recent years, more and more stars are coming out and proudly sharing their identities with the world.
However, nowhere in the massive article was Clooney's name even once mentioned. It was nothing but false and misleading clickbait.
In September 2014, Clooney married Amal Alamuddin, who, following the wedding, assumed his last name.
As of August 2023, we found no evidence that the couple had split or that Clooney had revealed he identified as part of the LGBTQ+ community.
As for the misleading ad and article, in the website address (URL) of the story, the campaign name for the advertising campaign was visible. It read as, "go_002_btq_7-31_x_us_george_clooney_zero_28091c." In other words, the person or people who managed the ads were tracking various metrics, so that they could measure if it was successful in receiving clicks.
The purpose of the ad and the idea of tracking its metrics were all about a strategy for making money. That strategy is called arbitrage.
Here's how arbitrage works: Taking the false Clooney ad as an example, the advertiser who created the ad hoped to make money based upon people viewing and clicking on the other ads in the extremely lengthy reference.com article. If they made more money back on their own ads in the reference.com article when compared to the budget they put toward the false Clooney ad, then they profited.
Similar to this fact check, in the past, we previously reported about how advertisers had also claimed that stand-up comedian and TV host Jay Leno was gay and had a "gorgeous husband," and that Oscar-nominated actor Michelle Pfeiffer was married to a woman. Neither of these claims was true. Like the claim about Clooney, they were nothing more than misleading clickbait for arbitrage purposes.