July 25, 2017

Google Increases Regulation Of False Ads And Fake News

In a report on Wednesday, Jan. 25, Google announced its increased regulation of advertising and linked-to websites about a week after President Donald Trump vowed to cut Federal regulations by 75%.

Google must have figured that if Trump’s administration wasn’t going to care as much as President Obama’s administration did about protecting consumers, it had better step up its efforts to protect people from dishonest advertising such weight-loss schemes, fake news, pay-day loans, porn, “trick-to-click” ads and many other online scams.

In 2016 Google took down 1.7 billion ads that violated its advertising guidelines and policies. This number is up from 718 million ads Google took down in 2015.

In addition to fake ads, many fake news sites were also banned. Often scam sites use the “.co” domain name instead instead of “.com” in an attempt to fool potential readers. According to Recode:

Also among those the removed ads were what Google calls “tabloid cloakers.” These advertisers run what look like links to news headlines, but when the user clicks, an ad for a product such as a weight loss supplement pops up. Google suspended 1,300 accounts engaged in tabloid cloaking in 2016.

So, this is a shout out to Google for being transparent and publicizing what it is doing in terms self-regulation to protect consumers. I’m sure that Google understands that it is much better to regulate itself rather than have the government get in the act. Even though Google, through its parent company, Alphabet, has one of, if not the biggest lobbying organizations in Washington, it still needs to protect its reputation with its users, who are virtually the entire population of the free world (the Chinese government blocks Google) and regulate itself before the government, even the Trump government, does.

I was surprised that sites selling beer and tobacco were included on the list of “Prohibited Content” (sites on which Google ads may not be placed). Sites that sell wine and champagne are OK. Although the difference in acceptability between beer and wine escapes me, perhaps this distinction reflects the taste of Google’s founders, Page and Brin. But nevertheless, Google has policies and promotes them.

Facebook, on the other hand, has not been quite as transparent or as forthright about its attempts to counteract false advertising and fake news. It did announce in December that it was outsourcing the determination of fake news to five third-party organizations: Snopes, PolitiFact, Factcheck.org, ABC News, and the Associated Press. And last November, Facebook announced that fake news websites will be prohibited from using its Audience Network Ads, but the announcement came right after Google announced a similar policy.

Google has been the proactive, transparent leader in trying to weed out false advertising and fake news, Facebook has been the hooded follower. Let’s hope that Google continues to get stronger in self-regulation and that Facebook continues to follow suit and isn’t Trumped in doing so.

Google is doing the right thing for its users, and is being rewarded for it in its market cap of $583.56 billion (1/25/2017) on the NASDAQ, a record high, and the second highest market cap (to Apple) in the world. Facebook’s market cap is $378.9 billion on the NASDAQ, so it should be chasing Google.

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