Google Takes on Fake News and Bad Ads with New Internal Compliance System

Lee R. - January 29, 2017

Note to advertisers and news services: understanding the new Google system is the best way to avoid breaching it.

To demonstrate the sincerity of its commitment to combating the various types of spammers abusing its massive ad network, Google reports the eradication of 1.7 billion total “bad ads” in 2016, a number representing almost double the 780 million it reported for 2015. 

Policy Response

This “crackdown” as it were comes in direct response to public criticism of Facebook, Twitter, and Google for failures to prevent the spread of fake news and manipulation of their embedded PR systems in the wake of high profile global events such as Brexit and the US election. 

AdSense Adaptation

Google further introduced new AdSense policy guidelines for publishers to prevent the generation of ad revenue on Google platforms by fake news sites.

Explaining the Measures

Google provided the following explanation for the ban against almost 200 AdSense publishers violating the new rules with misrepresentative content:

"From November to December 2016, we reviewed 550 sites that were suspected of misrepresenting content to users, including impersonating news organizations. We took action against 340 of them for violating our policies, both misrepresentation and other offenses, and nearly 200 publishers were kicked out of our network permanently.”

New Form of Spam

Google went on to identify a specific new offense that has emerged as a spamming technique: tabloid cloaking, or accounts, which Google defined as publishing real- appearing ads for fake news sites.

Cloaker Ban Totals

Google revealed that it permanently suspended over 1,300 tabloid cloaker accounts last year, removing 22 accounts in December alone that were displaying fake tabloid news ads seen by 20 million per week.

Payday Loans Removed

Among the most prominent disables was payday ad loans, which traditionally often prey on the needy.  In July of last year, Google instilled a ban against advertisements with 60-day repayment deadlines along with US ads for loans with a 36 percent or higher interest rate.

Automated Disables

An interesting caveat to these developments is that Google upgraded its automated systems last year to help it detect and disable 112 million ads designed to trick users, resulting in a jump of a 600 percent year-on-year jump in rate of disablement.  

Private Organisational Discretion

These developments ultimately provide salient reminders that the online engines that we rely on so heavily remain the domain of private enterprises who create their own procedures for cancelling user accounts at their discretion.

No Appeals

While the spirit of the new crackdown remains true, there is no recourse available to those found in violation, so advertisers need to watch their steps more carefully than ever, and avoid any possible perception of deception.     

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