Cryptocurrency cull: Google bans bitcoin and ICO ads from its networks

14 Mar 2018

Image: Ronan Demkiv/Shutterstock

ICOs and cryptocurrency fad ads have no place on Google, says search giant.

In a move to prevent users from falling prey to cryptocurrency scam ads or investing in dodgy initial coin offers (ICOs), Google said that it will ban cryptocurrency-related content from its AdWords platform from June.

The new policy change will affect advertising around bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies such as Ethereum.

‘We introduced new technology called page-level enforcement that allows us to remove Google ads from over 2m URLs each month’

“This year, we are adding several new policies that will address ads in unregulated, overly complex or speculative financial products like binary options, cryptocurrency, foreign exchange markets and contracts for difference (or CFDs),” the company said in a statement this morning (14 March).

The decision follows a similar move by Facebook in January to ban all ads for bitcoin in a bid to prevent misleading promotions.

Despite the fluctuations of cryptocurrencies in the past year – which saw bitcoin surge to more than $20,000 in value per coin and the rising spate of ICOs leading to $5.6bn raised in 2017 – there is a growing sense of cynicism around the cryptocurrency craze.

More specifically, there are concerns that scammers are using online ads to find victims willing to part with their cash for what are today’s Dutch tulip auctions.

Google has said that the ban also applies to content related to cryptocurrencies, including ICOs, cryptocurrency exchanges, cryptocurrency wallets and cryptocurrency trading advice.

Google takes action against bad ads

The news of the ban on cryptocurrency ads emerged with the publication of Google’s Trust & Safety Ad Removals report for 2017.

In 2017, Google took down more than 3.2bn ads, compared with 700m in 2015. That’s more than 100 bad ads per second.

In the same year, it blocked more than 12,000 websites for scraping, duplicating and copying content from other sites, up from 10,000 in 2016.

It suspended more than 7,000 AdWords accounts for tabloid cloaking – a search engine optimisation (SEO) technique in which the content presented to the search engine spider is different from that presented to the user’s browser – up from 1,400 in 2016.

Google also removed more than 130m ads last year for trying to abuse its ad network through malicious activity. It blocked 79m ads for automatically sending people to malware-laden sites, and removed 400,000 of these unsafe sites. It also blocked 66m ‘trick to click’ ads and 48m ads that were attempting to get users to install unwanted software.

In 2017, Google said it removed 320,000 bad publishers from its ad network, and blocked 90,000 websites and 700,000 mobile apps for policy violations.

“We introduced new technology called page-level enforcement that allows us to remove Google ads from over 2m URLs each month,” the company said.

Google also took action against sites that promoted dangerous and derogatory language as well as hate speech.

“After launching an expanded policy in April 2017 to cover forms of discrimination and intolerance beyond hate speech protections, we removed Google ads from 8,700 pages,” it said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years