In early August 2021, gymnast Simone Biles‘ net worth became the subject of a deceptive online advertising campaign.
Days earlier on July 27, Biles withdrew from competition at the Tokyo Olympics after experiencing what is known as the “twisties.” The Associated Press defined them as “the sudden inability for a gymnast to make the requisite spins — or sometimes any spins — for a particular maneuver.”
This led to a considerable amount of positivity and an outpouring of love and kindness from supporters of Team USA. However, it also resulted in negative criticism from political bloggers looking to cash in on internet traffic and notoriety. Some of the negativity ended up gaining traction when it trended on Google, thanks to the way that Google’s “Trending Searches” technology functions.
It was later announced that the Olympic gold medalist intended to return to the balance beam final on Aug. 3.
In the wake of the developments about Biles, internet ads began to appear that claimed to reveal her net worth.
We clicked the advertisement. It led to a 226-page slideshow article on the Witty Reporter website. After making our way through all of those pages, Biles’ purported net worth appeared on page 224: $6 million. This figure had no sources and was in no way official.
We clicked “next page” 226 times so our readers don’t have to. Comedian Bill Burr, whose likeness appeared on the final page of the article, purportedly has a net worth of $12 million (again, no sources for this information were listed).
If the UTM code at the end of the URL for page 224 was removed, actor and director Ron Howard would show up instead of Biles. This deceptive tactic appeared to be a strategy to only show Biles’ page to people who clicked all 220+ pages. (For readers unfamiliar with UTM code, it’s a normal way for website managers to track user activity on their pages by adding a series of characters to a web address.)
The $6 million net worth figure for Biles has also appeared on various big-name websites. However, again, this figure is not official. Asking Google to show a noteworthy person’s net worth might result in a dollar figure in a large font size at the top of the results. However, clicking through to the websites that report the amount often leads to an explanation that it’s simply a speculative estimate.