Google blocked 2.3 billion bad ads for tickets, garage doors, tech support in 2018

That's 900 million fewer ads than it blocked last year -- but twice as many advertisers and publishers.

Stephen Shankland principal writer
Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and writes about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
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Stephen Shankland
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Google's campus next to headquarters in Mountain View, California

Google's campus in Mountain View, California

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Google blocked 2.3 billion ads in 2018, part of its effort to stop scams, abuse, malware and other problems that can tarnish the online advertising industry on which the internet giant depends.

That's a big number, but it's smaller than last year, when Google blocked 3.2 billion bad ads. Google enforcement ramped up another dimension, though, by blocking those responsible for those ads. Specifically, it blocked nearly 1 million advertiser accounts and 734,000 publishers and app developers. That's about double the number as last year, Scott Spencer, Google's director of sustainable ads, said in a blog post.

"Sustainable ads" may sound weird, but it's an important idea. Bad ads degrade the technology that's the financial lifeblood not only for Google but also for countless websites and apps that rely on Google to place those ads.

Ads are already in enough trouble -- with browsers including Safari, Firefox, Brave and even Google's own Chrome getting increasingly assertive about reining in their abuses. Millions of us already install ad blockers.

Google also launched 31 policies to ban categories of ads in 2018. That affected various abusive ads related to "third-party tech support, ticket resellers, cryptocurrency and local services such as garage door repairmen, bail bonds and addiction treatment facilities," Spencer said.

Google used a combination of human reviewers and artificial intelligence to spot sources of bad ads.

"When we take action at the account level, it helps to address the root cause of bad ads and better protect our users," Spencer said.

Google places ads in apps and on websites, and there, it took action to cut off publishers and developers' revenue. Google "removed ads completely from nearly 1.5 million apps [and] nearly 28 million pages that violated our publisher policies," Spencer said.