Google gets tough on "bad ads", pulls down 1.7 billion promotions

Google is coming down hard on “bad ads”. Last year Google took down 1.7 billion ads that violated its advertising policies and this was more than double the amount of bad ads it took down in 2015.  Bad ads, according to Google “promote illegal products and unrealistic offers” and can “trick people into sharing personal information and infect devices with harmful software”.

Some of the most common bad ads Google found online are ads promoting illegal activities or products. Google says that although it has had a long policy against bad ads for pharmaceuticals, last year its systems detected an increase online. It disabled more than 68 million bad ads for healthcare violations, up from 12.5 million in 2015.

Similarly, it saw more attempts to advertise gambling-related promotions without proper authorisation from regulators in the countries they operate. Google took down more than 17 million bad ads for illegal gambling violations in 2016.

Google also took action on 47,000 sites for promoting content and products related to weight-loss scams.  In 2016, Google took down nearly 80 million bad ads for deceiving, misleading and shocking users by asking, “Are you at risk for this rare, skin-eating disease?” or offering miracle cures like a pill that will help you lose 50 pounds in three days without lifting a finger.

Last year, its system detected and disabled more than 23,000 self-clicking ads on the platforms, a huge increase year over year. In 2016, it suspended more than 1,300 accounts for tabloid cloaking. It also took down almost 7 million bad ads for intentionally attempting to trick the detection systems.

The search giant also saw  a rise of tabloid cloakers, a new type of scammer that tries to game the system by pretending to be news.

Cloakers often take advantage of timely topics—a government election, a trending news story or a popular celebrity—and their ads can look like headlines on a news website. But when people click on that story about Ellen DeGeneres and aliens, they go to a site selling weight-loss products, not a news story.

To fight cloakers, it took down the scammers themselves, and prevented them from advertising with Google again. It suspended more than 1,300 accounts for tabloid cloaking. During a single sweep for tabloid cloaking in December 2016, Google took down 22 cloakers that were responsible for ads seen more than 20 million times by people online in a single week. It suspended around 6,000 sites and 6,000 accounts for attempting to advertise counterfeit goods, like imitation designer watches.

Google said last year it took down bad ads by expanding policies to better protect users from misleading and predatory offers.

“ We have a strict set of policies that govern the types of ads we do and don’t allow on Google in order to protect people from misleading, inappropriate, or harmful ads. And we have a team of engineers, policy experts, product managers and others who are waging a daily fight against bad actors. Over the years, this commitment has made the web a better place for you—and a worse place for those who seek to abuse advertising systems for their own gain.

(Photo courtesy: 123RF)