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Keeping ads clean …and transparent

Last week Google released its annual “Ads Safety Report”, which outlined the efforts involved in eliminating unwanted or fraudulent adverts. I suspect that keeping adverts above board is one of the hardest tasks the company faces. One look at some social media platforms gives a tiny inkling of the deluge of scams, pornographic or politically misleading content which must be constantly pressing at the door. All credit to them then that we see very little (if any) unwanted advertising on search results, which is why serious businesses are happy to advertise there.

Two initiatives the company has highlighted are its ‘Limited Ads Serving policy’, which limits the reach of new advertisers when there is an unclear relationship between the advertiser and a brand they are referencing, and a team set up to catch ads featuring the likeness of public figures to scam users, often through the use of ‘deepfakes’.

Google has long-standing identity verification and transparency requirements for election advertisers, with all election ads having to include a “paid for by” disclosure. In 2023, more than 5,000 new election advertisers were verified, and more than 7.3 million election ads were removed from advertisers who did not complete verification.

Over 5.5 billion removals

Overall in 2023, Google blocked or removed over 200 million advertisements for violating its misrepresentation policy, which includes many scam tactics, and even more for violating its financial services policy. The company also blocked or removed over 1 billion advertisements for violating the policy against ‘abusing the ad network’, which includes promoting malware. The total number of ads blocked or removed was over 5.5 billion ads, and 12.7 million advertiser accounts were blocked.

A relatively new resource which should be interesting for all of us is the Ads Transparency Centre. Here we can see samples of anyone’s adverts, including our own and those of competitors. Sorry if I’ve just taken up your next half hour!