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Google 'task force' fights bad COVID-19 advertisements

Google 'task force' fights bad COVID-19 advertisements

FILE PHOTO: The Google internet homepage is displayed on a product at a store in London, Britain January 23, 2016. REUTERS/Neil Hall

SAN FRANCISCO: Google said Thursday (Apr 30) its task force devoted to fighting "bad" ads hawking bogus COVID-19 cures, illegitimate unemployment benefits and overpriced medical supplies had blocked tens of millions of messages.

Google has blocked and removed coronavirus-related marketing pitches in recent months for policy violations including price-gouging and misleading claims, according to ads privacy and safety vice president Scott Spencer.

READ: Google says state-backed hackers increasing COVID-19 phishing attacks

"We have a dedicated COVID-19 task force working around the clock building new detection technology and improving our existing enforcement systems to stop bad actors," Spencer said in a blog post.

"These concerted efforts are working."

With health worries pervasive around the world, guarding against efforts to take advantage of people through pandemic-themed online ads is a priority, according to Spencer.

Google said it has been watching closely for advertising abuses taking advantage of the crisis since the COVID-19 outbreak started.

Deceptive ads have often been the work of "sophisticated actors attempting to evade our enforcement systems with advanced tactics", Spencer said.

He gave the example of a sharp spike in ads offering coveted supplies such as face masks at inflated prices designed to entice online orders that are never filled.

READ: Google boosts support for checking COVID-19 facts

Alphabet-owned Google has a clear interest in protecting the integrity of the online advertising platform that is its money-making engine.

Google last year blocked and removed 2.7 billion "bad ads" and suspended nearly a million advertising accounts for policy violations, according to Spencer.

The California-based internet firm assembled a team last year to track signs of phishing or trickery regarding clicking on links, cutting the numbers of such "bad ads" by 50 per cent as a result, Spencer said.

Google blocked more than 35 million phishing ads and 19 million "trick-to-click" ads last year, according to the company.

Source: AFP/ad


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