Google has blocked more than 99 million fake COVID-related ads from its server, the company said in a blog post Wednesday. The blocked topics range from fake miracle cures and vaccine doses to counterfeit N95 masks.
The search giant's annual Ads Safety Report detailed the company's 2020 efforts to combat misinformation.
Scott Spencer, vice president of ads privacy and safety at Google, attributed the ability to block the millions of ads to being “nimble,” tracking the behavior of bad actors, and then learning from it.
"In doing so, we're able to better prepare for future scams and claims that may arise,” he wrote in a blog post.
Google put new policies and programs in place, invested in new coordination technology, and improved its automated detection technology and human processes to battle the fake ads.
This year marks a decade of releasing the report.
Last spring, Google introduced its advertiser identity verification program, which verifies advertisers in more than 20 countries, and began sharing the advertiser name and location in our About this ad feature, so that people know who is behind a specific ad.
Google also continued to invest in automated detection technology that scans the web for publisher policy compliance. It helped the company enforce the policies and removed ads from 1.3 billion publisher pages in 2020, up from 21 million in 2019. And, Google stopped ads from serving on more than 1.6 million publisher sites with pervasive or egregious violations.
Last year, Google also saw an increase in “opportunistic advertising and fraudulent behavior from actors looking to mislead users.”
Some of the fraudulent activity includes cloaking to hide from Google’s detection, promote nonexistent virtual businesses or run ads for phone-based scams to either hide from detection or lure unsuspecting consumers off its platforms with an aim to defraud them.
Spencer also wrote about how Google stepped up to protect elections. Google introduced strict policies and restrictions around who can run election-related advertising on its platform and the ways they can target ads; launched comprehensive political ad libraries in the U.S., the U.K., the European Union, India, Israel, Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand; and worked to protect platforms from abuse.