While Google is constantly dealing with bad actors that use ads to mislead and deceive users, 2020 presented a unique challenge in the form of COVID-19 as well as the US election.
According to new data from the company, Google removed 3.1 billion bad ads in 2020, including 99 million related to COVID-19. There was also a 70 per cent increase in the number of ad accounts Google disabled for policy violations last year.
“In 2020, our policies and enforcement were put to the test as we collectively navigated a global pandemic, multiple elections around the world and the continued fight against bad actors looking for new ways to take advantage of people online,” said Google’s vice president, ads privacy & safety Scott Spencer.
When it came to dealing with the early outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent spread of misinformation, Google enforced its sensitive events policy, which prevented ads that promoted false cures and stopped price-gouging on products like hand sanitizer and masks. Recently this has been extended to ads that offer fake vaccines for sale.
Google additionally started to ban all ads that monetised content about COVID-19 that contradicted the scientific consensus.
In terms of elections, Spencer explained that the enforcement of the ads policy in 2020 was an extension on previous efforts around verifying advertisers.
Google also enforced its sensitive events policy in the US after voting closed when the result of the election was unclear.
“During that time, we temporarily paused more than five million ads and blocked ads on over three billion Search queries referencing the election, the candidates or its outcome,” said Spencer.
“We made this decision to limit the potential for ads to amplify confusion in the post-election period.”
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