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Google cracks down on spammy Chrome extensions with new policy updates

Effective Aug. 27, the restrictions are aimed at ridding the Chrome Web Store of things like copycats and misleading extensions with fake reviews.

Angela Lang/CNET

Google has announced new efforts to crack down on bad-faith actors posting misleading or fraudulent extensions to the Chrome Web Store, where users can download add-on software and themes for the Chrome web browser.

"The increase in adoption of the extension platform has also attracted spammers and fraudsters introducing low-quality and misleading extensions in an attempt to deceive and trick our users into installing them to make a quick profit," the company wrote in a blog post published Wednesday. "We want to ensure that the path of a user discovering an extension from the Chrome Web Store is clear and informative and not muddled with copycats, misleading functionalities or fake reviews and ratings."

To do so, Google is introducing some updates to its spam policy for the Chrome Web Store. Here they are, verbatim:

  • Developers or their affiliates should not publish multiple extensions that provide duplicate experiences or functionality on the Chrome Web Store.
  • Extensions should not have misleading, improperly formatted, non-descriptive, irrelevant, excessive, or inappropriate metadata, including but not limited to the extension's description, developer name, title, icon, screenshots, and promotional images. Developers must provide a clear and well-written description. Unattributed or anonymous user testimonials in the app's description are also not allowed. 
  • Developers must not attempt to manipulate the placement of any extensions in the Chrome Web Store. This includes, but is not limited to, inflating product ratings, reviews, or install counts by illegitimate means, such as fraudulent or incentivized downloads, reviews and ratings. 
  • Extensions with a single purpose of installing or launching another app, theme, webpage, or extension are not allowed.
  • Extensions that abuse, or are associated with the abuse of, notifications by sending spam, ads, promotions, phishing attempts, or unwanted messages that harm the user's browsing experience are not allowed. Extensions that send messages on behalf of the user without giving the user the ability to confirm the content and intended recipients are also not allowed.

The changes go into effect Aug. 27, so developers who might be straddling the new lines have some time to adjust to the new rules. After that, Google reserves the right to yank violators out of the Web Store altogether.

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