Google blocks 99 million COVID-related ads in move vs 'opportunistic abuse'

Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 17 2021 07:08 PM | Updated as of Mar 17 2021 08:34 PM

MANILA - Google said Wednesday it blocked or removed about 3.1 billion ads and over 99 million COVID-related ads in 2020 for violating its policies as it intensified efforts to keep users safe especially during the pandemic.

An additional 6.4 billion ads were also restricted, according to Google's latest Ads Safety Report. 

Blocked COVID-related ads include miracle cures and fake vaccine doses, Google said. 

A "sensitive events policy" was also enforced to prevent illegal activities such as overcharging in-demand products such sanitizers, and masks, the report said.

Online sales of basic personal protection equipment (PPE) such as alcohol and face masks, among others, surged worldwide last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the Philippines, the Trade Department had to impose anti-profiteering and price cap measures to prevent abuse.

"We continue to be nimble, tracking bad actors’ behavior and learning from it. In doing so, we’re able to better prepare for future scams and claims that may arise," Google vice president for Ads Privacy and Safety Scott Spencer said.

"As we learned more about the virus and health organizations issued new guidance, we evolved our enforcement strategy to start allowing medical providers, health organizations, local governments and trusted businesses to surface critical updates and authoritative content, while still preventing opportunistic abuse," he added.

Google blocks 99 million COVID-related ads in move vs 'opportunistic abuse' 1
Chart: Google Ads Safety Report

Spencer said Google also launched a new policy to prohibit ads and monetized content about COVID-19 or other health emergencies as claims and conspiracies about their origin rise.

Google also introduced an advertiser identity verification program, which is currently verifying advertisers in over 20 countries. The feature shares advertiser name and location in the About this ad tab to inform consumers about the organization behind a specific ad, it said.

Investments in automated detection technology that scan the web for publisher policy compliance helped remove 1.3 billion publisher pages in 2020 from 21 million in 2019, the report said.

Ads were also prevented from serving 1.6 million publisher sites with "pervasive or egregious violations," the firm said.

The total of ad accounts disabled for policy violations rose by 70 percent to 1.7 million from 1 million, data showed. Some 867 million ads were also prevented from trying to evade detection systems and 101 million ads for violating misrepresentation policies, it said.

Google has also protected consumers during elections around the world, it said. Strict policies and restrictions are being continuously introduced identifying who can run election-related advertising on the platform.

The measure could limit potential ads from amplifying confusion, it said.

Google said it would continue investing in policies in order to stay ahead of "potential threats" and to fight newer and changing fraud and scams.

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