Google on Monday said it blocked and removed 2.7 billion "bad ads" - more than 5,000 bad ads per minute - in 2019, and suspended nearly one million advertiser accounts for policy violations as part of its efforts to protect users from misleading ads.
The tech giant also noted that there has been a sharp spike in fraudulent ads for in-demand products like face masks amid the COVID-19 pandemic that has claimed lakhs of lives globally.
"Preserving the integrity of the ads on our platforms, as we're doing during the COVID-19 outbreak, is a continuation of the work we do every day to minimise content that violates our policies and stop malicious actors. We have thousands of people working across our teams to make sure we're protecting our users and enabling a safe ecosystem for advertisers and publishers..." Google said in a blogpost.
The post, written by Google Vice President of Product Management Ads Privacy and Safety Scott Spencer, noted that 2.7 billion bad ads were blocked and removed in 2019.
"We also suspended nearly 1 million advertiser accounts for policy violations. On the publisher side, we terminated over 1.2 million accounts and removed ads from over 21 million web pages that are part of our publisher network for violating our policies," the blog said.
It added that terminating accounts - not just removing an individual ad or page - is an especially effective enforcement tool that Google uses if advertisers or publishers engage in egregious policy violations or have a history of violating policy.
"People trust Google when they're looking for information, and we're committed to ensuring they can trust the ads they see on our platforms, too. This commitment is especially important in times of uncertainty, such as the past few months as the world has confronted COVID-19," the blog said.
Google said since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, it has been closely monitoring advertiser behaviour to protect users from ads "looking to take advantage of the crisis".
"These often come from sophisticated actors attempting to evade our enforcement systems with advanced tactics. For example, 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," the blog said.
Google pointed out that there is a dedicated COVID-19 task force that has been working round-the-clock that has built new detection technology and has also improved existing enforcement systems to stop bad actors.
"These concerted efforts are working. We've blocked and removed tens of millions of coronavirus-related ads over the past few months for policy violations including price-gouging, capitalising on global medical supply shortages, making misleading claims about cures and promoting illegitimate unemployment benefits," it added.
Simultaneously, Google is working on ways to allow advertisers across industries to share relevant updates with their audiences. It explained that over the past several weeks, Google has helped NGOs, governments, hospitals and healthcare providers run public service announcements.
"We continue to take a measured approach to adjusting our enforcement to ensure that we are protecting users while prioritising critical information from trusted advertisers. Maintaining trust in the digital advertising ecosystem is a top priority for Google," it said.