Google Bans Ads for Crypto-Currencies, Related Financial Services

Like Facebook before it, Google says move is designed to protect Internet users from unregulated financial products.

Docker Container Crypto-Currency attacks

Taking a cue from Facebook, Google too has decided to ban all advertisements for crypto-currencies and related financial products on its online properties. 

The policy will go into effect in June 2018 and includes ads pertaining to initial coin offerings, crypto-currency exchanges, wallets, and trading advice. 

The ban is part of a new financial products policy, that Google announced March 14 and applies also to advertisers that offer so-called Contracts for Difference, financial spread betting and certain kinds of foreign exchange transactions. 

After June, organizations that want to advertise these services will need to get certified by Google first and the certification itself will only be available in select countries, according to Google. 

The updates are designed to protect users from "ads in unregulated or speculative financial products," Google's director of sustainable ads Scott Spencer said in a March 14 blog. "As consumer trends evolve, as our methods to protect the open web get better, so do online scams," Spencer said. 

Google's announcement is similar to one that Facebook made in January prohibiting ads that promote financial products and services associated with crypto-currencies, initial coin offering and binary options. 

Facebook at the time described the move as a response to the proliferation of misleading ads for crypto-currencies and similar financial products. 

It's unclear what long-term impact the moves by Google and Facebook—by far the two largest advertising platforms on the Internet—will have on the crypto-currency market. The price for Bitcoin dropped over 11.7 percent to just over $8,066 late Wednesday afternoon following Google's announcement. However, it is not clear if the drop was triggered by Google's decision alone or by broader market factors as well. 

The massive price run-ups for major digital currencies including Bitcoin and Monero—and the equally massive price swings—in recent months have stoked widespread concerns about the highly speculative and unregulated nature of the market. Lawmakers in countries including the U.S., Japan and the Netherlands are considering regulations on crypto-currency trading and transactions to protect investors and consumers against fraud and financial losses. 

Fears about the highly risky nature of the crypto-currency marketplace have been fueled by the theft of hundreds of millions of dollars from crypto-currency exchanges in brazen hacking incidents. 

A financial analyst quoted by CNBC described Google's move and that by Facebook earlier as a potentially positive development for the market. 

In an emailed statement to eWEEK, Joe McCann, founder and CEO of NodeSource said Google's move is unlikely to slow down momentum in the crypto-currency market. Given the high-level of investor interest, "stopping the flow of information via advertising is analogous to putting a Band-Aid on a crack in a dam," McCann said. 

"Governments and now media outlets are attempting to ‘protect’ the public from this burgeoning asset class when in reality, the global [populace] is moving forward without them," he said. 

Google's move to ban crypto-currency-related ads is part of what Spencer described as a broader crackdown on bad actors in the advertising realm. In 2017, Google took down more than 3.2 billion ads that violated its ad policies—or roughly 100 bad ads per second, Spencer said. 

The blocked ads included 79 million ads that attempted to send users to malware-laden sites, 66 million ads that tried to trick users into clicking on them and 48 million that attempted to get users to download unwanted software. 

Jaikumar Vijayan

Jaikumar Vijayan

Vijayan is an award-winning independent journalist and tech content creation specialist covering data security and privacy, business intelligence, big data and data analytics.