Google blocked more than 99 million Covid adverts in 2020 to avoid misinformation

By Helen Johnson
Wednesday, 17th March 2021, 2:59 pm
Updated Wednesday, 17th March 2021, 3:00 pm
Google blocked or removed more than 99 million adverts linked to the Covid pandemic, the tech giant has announced (Photo: Shutterstock)

Google blocked or removed more than 99 million adverts linked to the Covid pandemic, the tech giant has announced.

More than three billion adverts were blocked for violating its policies in 2020, with a portion of these being connected to coronavirus, including adverts with misleading claims such as miracle cures or fake vaccine doses.

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‘Preventing opportunistic abuse’

Google said a major overhaul of its advertising policies - which included the addition or updating of more than 40 rules for both advertisers and publishers - meant a significant increase in the number of ads removed over the last 12 months.

The firm’s annual Ads Safety Report showed it suspended 1.7 million advertiser accounts for breaking Google rules.

More than 99 million ads which related to Covid-19 were removed, many of which had misleading claims, such as miracle cures or fake vaccine doses, but there were also ads for N95 face masks during supply shortages.

Google’s vice president for Ads privacy and safety, Scott Spencer, said: “As the number of Covid-19 cases rose around the world last January, we enforced our sensitive events policy to prevent behaviour like price-gouging on in-demand products like hand sanitiser, masks and paper goods, or ads promoting false cures.

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

Mr Spencer also said that as “claims and conspiracies about the coronavirus’s origin and spread were circulated online,” the company “launched a new policy to prohibit both ads and monetised content about Covid-19 or other global health emergencies that contradict scientific consensus.”