Google said it blocked 1.7 billion “bad ads” in 2016, or more than double what it did the previous year.
Ads that are misleading, inappropriate, promote misleading products or trick users into installing harmful software are generally deemed “bad,” Google said. The company also blacklisted ads that were once considered acceptable in 2015.
Payday loans that carry an annual interest rate higher than 36%, for example, were banned from appearing as Google search ads last year. The company was applauded for its move, as the measure was expected to cost Google millions in revenue. Yet digital loan sharks quickly adapted to Google’s newfound rule, as many loan companies now offer payday loans with an APR as high as 35.99%.
That means a $5,000 loan with an APR of 35.99% would cost a borrower $13,745 over a seven-year span, which is a common time allotment offered by the predatory loan companies Google is trying to blacklist.
Still, Google said it blocked 5 million payday loan advertisements from appearing in 2016. Scott Spencer, director of product management at Google, said it takes time for the company to adapt to new schemes.
Meanwhile, the company said the biggest trend to come out of 2016 was the rise of “tabloid cloakers,” a new type of ad that tries to game Google’s system by pretending to be news. One example the company shared was about an ad showing Ellen DeGeneres and aliens. However, consumers who click on ads like this are taken to a site selling weight loss products, for example.
Google said it suspended 1,300 accounts for tabloid cloaking last year. In one sweep, the company took down 22 accounts that were responsible for displaying 20 million cloaker ads over a one-week period.
The company added that it also removed 112 million ads that aim to deceive users into downloading apps or malware, six times more than what it did in 2015. The company said it removed 68 million ads for healthcare violations in 2016, up from 12.5 million in 2015. Another 17 million ads were removed for promoting illegal gambling, Google said.
About 900,000 ads were disabled for containing malware. And an additional 6,000 accounts were suspended for attempting to advertise counterfeit goods, the company said. From November to December, Google said it reviewed 550 sites that were suspected of misrepresenting content or were impersonating as news organizations like CNN. Of those, Google took action against 340 of them for violating its policies. An additional 200 publishers were also permanently banned, Google said.