Google has announced in a change to its advertising policy affecting a wide range of financial products and services that it will no longer serve cryptocurrency-related ads.
The move follows the lead from Facebook which announced in January that it would no longer accept crypto advertising.
Google’s change in policy was outlined in a post on the advertising policies help section of its website.
The update to its financial services policy comes into effect in June and will hit a wide range of products and services, with the primary focus of the statement being contracts for difference (CFDs), rolling spot forex, and financial spread betting.
Looming regulation of the cryptocurrency industry may have concentrated the minds of executives at Google. The policy update relating to crypto reads:
“In addition, ads for the following will no longer be allowed to serve:
• Binary options and synonymous products
• Cryptocurrencies and related content (including but not limited to initial coin offerings, cryptocurrency exchanges, cryptocurrency wallets, and cryptocurrency trading advice)”
CFDs, binary options and spread betting are all legitimate financial products but are highly risky. CFDs are banned in the US but widespread in the UK, continental Europe and elsewhere.
In the UK CFD and spread betting brokers have offer markets in crypto and has driven a significant increase in revenues across the sector. CFD brokers typically allow customers to trade on margins of of 30 and in some cases up to 150 times deposit. Gains can therefore be massively magnified, but so too can losses.
Google’s updated policy also bans “cryptocurrencies and related products” from aggregators and on affiliate networks.
The decision by Google will affect publishers and ICO promoters in the crypto industry because crowdsale advertising by blockchain projects is all-pervasive on crypto websites, although marketing spend will probably shift further in the direction of sponsored content publishing, a trend seen in the wider online advertising industry.
The comprehensive ban by extending to crypto exchanges and wallets, ensnares many legitimate businesses.
However, there may be winners from the new policy. Google did not indicate how much money it would be losing because of the ban, but those ad networks such as MediaNet that continue to run crypto ads will probably be big beneficiaries, unless of course they also follow suit, either voluntarily or through compliance with future regulatory requirements.
Facebook said its policy prohibiting crypto advertising was “intentionally broad” but added that it would revisit the policy “as our signals improve”.
Facebook’s policy has already been subverted by some crypto advertisers who used tactics such as deliberately misspelling “bitcoin” to bypass the social network’s automated systems. A Google spokesperson said the company will attempt to anticipate and prevent similar gambits from working on its ad network.
Websites, social networks and companies such as Alphabet, which owns Google and YouTube, are struggling to develop the technology to automatically remove “fake news” and other misleading, illegal or dangerous content. Scammers in the crypto world pose particular difficulties because of the unregulated nature of the industry; initial coin offerings are a sweet spot for fraudsters as a result.
And it’s not just the minority of fraudulent ICOs that’s a problem. Crypto-jacking, where malicious code is hidden on websites or in ads to take control of the processing power of a computer to mine crypto, is growing exponentially. Google said it has taken 130 million such ads.
Google’s latest “bad ads” report said it had removed 3.2 billion ads in 2017 for breaking its policies, am 88% increase on the previous year.
In addition, 320,000 publishers were removed from its ad network and 90,000 websites and 700,000 mobile apps blacklisted, the search engine and online advertising company reported Wednesday.
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