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Scam-Stoppers: Google’s Efforts to Protect You from Bad Ads

Let’s face it, there’s an element to online advertising that feels a bit sketchy — like Vegas before the Strip got cleaned up. Maybe it was all those garish flashing banners and tricksy popups of the 2000s that put us off, but there’s still something about an online ad that raises suspicions.

Well, Google is working hard to change that. And it’s starting from within.

Last month Google released its 2014 Year in Review of bad advertising practices. All told, in 2014 Google disabled more than 524 million bad ads and banned more than 214,000 advertisers. The attempted scams ranged from fake vacation rental properties to counterfeit goods to dietary supplements. Unique to 2014 were fraudulent ads for products that claimed to protect consumers against Ebola.

How does Google manage to police AdWords so effectively? The way it works is pretty interesting. Since the scope of Google’s advertising ecosystem encompasses 86 languages and 150 countries and territories, they rely on technology as a first responder. Finely tailored algorithms (the analytics tool is termed “Bunsen”) flag dubious ads in the index (called “Beaker”) — cute names for such serious work. All of the flagged ads are then investigated by a person and, if necessary, an action is taken. For those advertisers found in violation of Google’s policies, that usually means removing them entirely.

“Our business depends on keeping people safe and secure.”

Google’s not the only one that screens ads. Yahoo, AOL, Facebook, and Twitter also fight the good fight alongside Google as members of TrustInAds.org. In 2014 these companies collectively disabled over 2.5 million deceptive weight loss ads alone!

Google and other internet leaders have a vested interest in maintaining vigilance against bad ads — their business relies on it. And ultimately, so does the business of the companies that are paying to place good ads in the first place.

For more on Google’s review of bad advertising in 2014, check out their infographic below.

When was the last time you spotted a bad ad?

google-bad-ads-2014

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