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Google cracks down on fake news, billions of bad ads

The search giant's 2016 Bad Ads report says it removed 1.7 billion offenders, more than double that of 2015.

Google said it suspended more than 1,300 accounts for tabloid cloaking in 2016.

Every year Google removes a lot of ads that violate its policies, but 2016 was the worst year yet.

The search giant, which earns billions as the web's largest purveyor of digital advertising, said it removed 1.7 billion so-called Bad Ads in 2016, up from 780 million in 2015.

The offending ads range from payday loan ads, which Google banned in July, to ads for illegal products like black market pharmaceuticals and gambling sites. It also includes ads the company deems "misleading," such as one asking "Are you at risk for this rare, skin-eating disease?"

Google also removed a large number of what it calls "tabloid cloakers," aka fake news. The Bad Ads report, released Wednesday, says:

Cloakers often take advantage of timely topics--a government election, a trending news story or a popular celebrity--and their ads can look like headlines on a news website. But when people click on that story about Ellen DeGeneres and aliens, they go to a site selling weight-loss products, not a news story.

To fight scammers, Google said it removes the offending stories and bans them from advertising again. The company suspended more than 1300 such accounts in 2016.

Late last year, Google and Facebook came under fire for not doing enough to squelch fake news. Google even admitted it messed up when a fake news story about Donald Trump winning the popular vote appeared prominently in the search engine's widely-read news section.

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