Internet giant Google on Thursday said it took down 1.7 billion ads in 2016 that violated its advertising policies, more than double the number of “bad ads” it banned in 2015.
These ads were misleading, promoted illegal products and unrealistic offers or were inappropriate, according to Google’s annual ‘Better Ads Report’ for 2016. The most common inappropriate online ads were for illegal products. Google disabled more than 68 million bad ads for healthcare violations and 17 million bad ads for illegal gambling violations in 2016. “A free and open web is a vital resource for people and businesses around the world. And ads play a key role in ensuring you have access to accurate, quality information online. But bad ads can ruin the online experience for everyone,” Google Director of Product Management Sustainable Ads Scott Spencer said.
He added “bad ads” can trick people into sharing personal information and infect devices with harmful software. “Ultimately, bad ads pose a threat to users, Google’s partners, and the sustainability of the open web itself,” he said. Last year, Google expanded its policies to better protect users from misleading and predatory offers. In July, it introduced a policy to ban ads for payday loans, which often resulted in unaffordable payments and high default rates for users.
“In the six months since launching this policy, we disabled more than 5 million payday loan ads,” Google said. Google also beefed up its technology to spot and disable bad ads even faster.
“For example, ‘trick to click’ ads often appear as system warnings to deceive users into clicking on them, not realising they are often downloading harmful software or malware. In 2016, Google detected and disabled a total of 112 million ads for ‘trick to click’, 6X more than in 2015,” the report said. For ads developed exclusively for the mobile web, Google’s systems detected and disabled over 23,000 ‘self-clicking ads’ on its platforms this year as compared to only having to disable a few thousand of these bad ads last year.
Similarly, the report highlighted a dramatic increase in scamming activity in 2016 and close to 7 million bad ads were disabled for intentionally attempting to trick the Google detection systems. Year 2016 also saw rise of a new type of scammers called ‘tabloid cloakers’ that take advantage of current trends and hot topics, for example a government election, a trending news story or a well-known celebrity. The ads used by these scammers may look like headlines for real articles on a news website but when clicked upon, consumers are redirected to a site selling weight loss products.
In 2016, Google suspended over 1,300 accounts for tabloid cloaking. In December alone, Google took down 22 cloakers that were responsible for ads seen over 20 million times by people online in a single week.
In 2016, Google took action on 47,000 sites for promoting content and products related to weight-loss scams. It also took action on more than 15,000 sites for unwanted software and disabled 900,000 ads for containing malware. Around 6,000 sites and 6,000 accounts were suspended for attempting to advertise counterfeit goods, like imitation designer watches.