Google: How we fought fake ads, sites & scammers in 2016

All of the following is about broadening Google's policy governing ad types that are permitted to protect users from misleading, inappropriate, or malicious advertisements. A team of engineers, skilled people designing company policy, product managers and others around the world are fighting the fraudsters every day.

Over the years, this commitment has made the internet a better environment for users and a worse environment for those looking to abuse advertising systems for their own purposes. In 2016, Google downloaded 1,7 billion ads that violated its ad policy, more than double the number of fake ads it removed in

Google: A free and free internet is a vital resource for users and businesses around the world. Ads play an important role in ensuring that users have access to accurate, high-quality online information. But false ads can ruin the online experience for everyone. Illegally promote products and unrealistic bids. They can fool users by encouraging them to share personal information as well as infecting malicious software. In the end, false ads pose a threat to Google users, Google Partners, and the viability of free internet itself.

We are strict policy which governs the types of advertising we allow or not on Google to protect our users from misleading, inappropriate or malicious advertisements. And we have a team of engineers, a team of skilled people who design the company policy, product managers and others around the world who give daily the battle with fraudsters. Over the years, this commitment has made the internet a better environment for you and a worse environment for those who seek to abuse advertising systems for their own purposes.

In 2016 we downloaded 1,7 billion ads which violated our advertising policy, above the double number of false ads we removed from 2015. If you spent a second removing each of these false ads, it would take you over 50 years to make it. But our technology is built to work much faster.

Last year, we did two basic things to improve our performance. Firstly, we have broadened our policy to protect users from misleading and aggressive offers. For example, on July, we banned ads for payday loans, which often result in excessive bills and a high default rate for users. Six months after this policy was introduced, we deactivated over 5 millions of ads for temporary loans.

Secondly, we have strengthened our technology so that we can detect and deactivate false ads even faster. For example, "trick to click" ads often appear as system alerts to persuade users to click on them without realizing that they often download malware. In 2016, our systems detected and disabled a total of 112 million ads "trick to click", 6 times more than 2015.

Here are some other examples of false ads that we've fought in 2016:

Ads of illegal products

Some of the most common fake advertisements on the internet are ads that promote illegal activities or products. Although we have long been a policy against fake advertisements for drugs, last year our systems have identified a significant increase in the internet. We deactivated more than 68 million false advertisements for treatment-related violations by far more than 12,5 million 2015.

Similarly, we have seen more efforts to advertise gambling-related offers without proper permission from regulators in the countries in which they operate. We downloaded over 17 million false advertisements for gambling violations within 2016.

Misleading advertising

We do not want you to be misled by the ads we distribute, so we require our advertisers to provide clear information to users so they can make good decisions. Some ads try to get clicks and views by misleading users with questions such as: "Are you at risk from this rare dermatological illness?" Or by suggesting miraculous treatments such as a pill that would help you lose 50 pounds in three days without effort. Within 2016, we downloaded approximately 80 million false ads to deceive, mislead and upset users.

False ads on mobile

If you've ever used your phone and suddenly, without warning, end up in the app store and download an app you do not know, a "self-clicking" ad can be the cause. In 2015, we've disabled just a few thousand of these false ads, but within 2016, our systems detected and deactivated over 23.000 self-Clicking ads on our platforms, a big increase over the previous year.

Ads that try to fool the system

Scammers know that ads for certain products - such as dietary supplements or temporary loans - are not permitted by Google policies and so they try to trick our systems. In the last year, we almost removed 7 millions of bad ads that attempted to fool our tracking systems.

In 2016, we noticed the rise of tabloid cloakers - a new kind of scam that tries to trick our system disguised as a news outlet. Cloakers often take advantage of current affairs - government elections, high-profile news or celebrities - and make their ads look like news site headlines. But when users click on this story, they are taken to a website that sells diet products, not an informative article.

To fight cloakers, we remove our own fraudsters, and forbid them to advertise to us again. Within 2016, we suspended more than 1.300 accounts for tabloid cloaking. Unfortunately, this kind of false advertising goes up in popularity as users click on them. And a number of scammers can run many bad ads: During a tabloid cloaking crackdown in December 2016, we removed 22 cloakers who were responsible for ads that have been viewed over 20 millions of times by online users in just one week.

Hitting "evil" at the root

When we spot ads that violate our policies, we block the ad or the advertiser, depending on the violation. But sometimes you also need to suspend the website displayed in the ad (the site that users see after clicking). For example, while we disabled more than 5 million ads for payday loans over the past year, we suspended the 8.000 website that promotes temporary loans.

Here are some examples of common breaches of regulations we've found between bad websites within 2016:

  • We closed 47.000 web sites that featured content and products about diets.
  • We've closed over 15.000 spam sites and disabled 900.000 ads that led to malware.
  • We suspended the operation of about 6.000 web pages and 6.000 accounts because they were trying to advertise fake goods such as imitation watches.

Publishers and website owners use the AdSense platform to make money by placing ads on their sites and content, which is why we have strict policies: to keep Google and search network content safe and clean for advertisers, users and publishers. When a publisher violates our policies, we stop posting ads on their website, or even close their account.

We have long-standing policies that prohibit AdSense users from placing ads on websites that help scammers mislead users, such as a website where you buy fake diplomas or plagiarism research. In November, we expanded our policy and introduced the service AdSense misrepresentative content, which helps us take action against webmasters who falsify their identity and mislead users with their content. From November to December of 2016, we reviewed 550 websites that were suspected of distorting content to users, including misleading news organizations. We took action against 340 from those who violated our policy, both for distortion and for other violations, and almost 200 publishers were expelled from our network.

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In addition to all of this, we support the industry's efforts, such as that of the industry Coalition for Better Ads, aiming to protect users from bad internet experiences. Even if we removed more false ads from 2016 than ever, the battle does not stop here. While we are investing to better locate, crooks invest in even more sophisticated efforts to fool our systems.

Keeping them on and fighting them is essential to protect users and ensure they get the most out of free internet.

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