Google has said that it will ban advertisements that promote cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings (ICOs) starting from June. According to the company, the move is part of an update to its policy, which will also ban other risky financial products. The policy states that ads for aggregators and affiliates will no longer be able to display “cryptocurrencies and related content.”
In a blog post, the company highlighted all the products that can no longer be advertised “including but not limited to initial coin offerings (ICO), cryptocurrency exchanges, cryptocurrency wallets, and cryptocurrency trading advice.”
Currently, a search for the term ‘bitcoin’ on Google serves up websites advertising the sale of bitcoins right on top the results. (Screengrab below)
Facebook did it first
Google’s move mirrors one that was implemented in January by Facebook, the other giant in the web advertising domain. Facebook had also banned advertising of cryptocurrencies on its platforms, saying that these are “financial products and services that are frequently associated with misleading or deceptive promotional practices”. The ban included offerings like binary options, initial coin offerings and cryptocurrency.
Ads that violate the company’s new policy will be banned on Facebook’s core app, but also in other places where Facebook sells ads, including Instagram and its ad network, Audience Network, which places ads on third-party apps.
In February, Bloomberg reported that cryptocurrency ads have found their way onto Facebook despite the ban, using a workaround popular with email spammers: changing the spelling. It was not even done with any degree of sophistication, one simple workaround was replacing the letter ‘o’ with the number ‘0’ (even Nigerian princes try harder). A Google spokeswoman told Bloomberg that the company’s policies will try to anticipate workarounds like this.
Google’s fight with bad ads
Google’s new policy was announced as part of its annual “bad ads” report, a review of the number of malicious, deceptive and controversial ads Google scrubs from its network. In 2017, Google said it removed more than 3.2 billion advertisements from the web. That’s close to double that of the 1.7 billion in knocked off in 2016.
Last year, for instance, Google pulled 79 million ads for luring online clickers to websites with malware. Google is also accelerating a push against misleading content. The company suspended 7,000 customer accounts for ads that impersonated a news article — what Google calls “tabloid cloaking” — and blocked more than 12,000 websites for copying information from other publications.