Google blocked, removed 2.7 billion bad ads last year

The company says its been cracking down on false ads for products like face masks amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Abrar Al-Heeti
Abrar Al-Heeti Video producer / CNET
Abrar Al-Heeti is a video host and producer for CNET, with an interest in internet trends, entertainment, pop culture and digital accessibility. Before joining the video team, she was a writer for CNET's culture team. She graduated with bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Though Illinois is home, she now loves San Francisco -- steep inclines and all.
Expertise Abrar has spent her career at CNET breaking down the latest trends on TikTok, Twitter and Instagram, while also reporting on diversity and inclusion initiatives in Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Credentials Named a Tech Media Trailblazer by the Consumer Technology Association in 2019, a winner of SPJ NorCal's Excellence in Journalism Awards in 2022 and has twice been a finalist in the LA Press Club's National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards.
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Google says it's blocked and removed tens of millions of coronavirus-related ads in the past few months for policy violations.

Angela Lang/CNET

Google blocked and removed 2.7 billion bad ads in 2019 and suspended around 1 million advertiser accounts for policy violations, the company said in a Thursday blog post. The search giant noted its efforts to tackle fraudulent behavior are especially critical during the COVID-19 pandemic

"We've closely monitored advertiser behavior to protect users from ads looking to take advantage of the crisis," Scott Spencer, Google's vice president of ads privacy and safety, wrote in the blog post. "As the situation evolved, we saw a sharp spike in fraudulent ads for in-demand products like face masks. These ads promoted products listed significantly above market price, misrepresented the product quality to trick people into making a purchase or were placed by merchants who never fulfilled the orders."

Google says it has a COVID-19 task force that's created new detection technology to help stop bad actors. The company has blocked and removed tens of millions of coronavirus-related ads in the past few months for policy violations such as price-gouging and misleading claims, it says. 

On the publisher side, Google says it also pulled the plug on more than 1.2 million accounts and got rid of ads from over 21 million web pages from its publisher network for violating its policies. 

Last year's numbers are up from the 2.3 billion bad ads Google said it blocked in 2018. As its ability to detect trends and patterns among scammers has improved, the company notes, it's been able to respond with new tech designed to stop looming threats. Google says it also blocked more than 35 million phishing ads last year.

Watch this: Google vs. the coronavirus