Google has a ‘task force’ to fight bad Covid-19 ads

Google has blocked and removed coronavirus-related marketing pitches in recent months for policy violations including price-gouging and misleading claims.

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

Google said Thursday its task force devoted to fighting "bad" ads hawking bogus coronavirus 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.

"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.

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 percent 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.