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Google Blocked 780 Million "Bad Ads" in 2015

Internet giant Google recently provided details on its experience with “bad” ads, and revealed that it blocked more than 780 million such ads in 2015.

These ads often ruin users’ online experience and many of them also deliver malware, posing a threat to end-users and businesses alike. According to Google, it has a team of more than 1,000 people dedicated to fighting ads that violate the company’s policies, mislead people, or attempt to spread malware.

In a recent blog post, Sridhar Ramaswamy, SVP, Ads & Commerce at Google, explains that some of the bad ads the company blocked last year were used to carry out scams and which lead to phishing sites designed to harvest users’ personal information. Moreover, he notes that most of these ads were blocked before they were even shown on web pages.

During 2015, the company blocked over 10,000 sites and 18,000 accounts that attempted to sell counterfeit goods. The company also blocked more than 12.5 million ads that violated its healthcare and medicines policy, including ads for pharmaceuticals that weren’t approved for use or made misleading claims regarding their effectiveness.

Other types of ads blocked last year were those involving weight loss scams, including those for supplements promising impossible-to-achieve weight loss without diet or exercise. Throughout 2015, over 30,000 sites were suspended for misleading claims, the company says.

Google also explains that it blocked around 7,000 phishing sites last year, that it rejected over 17 million ads that mislead users into interacting with them (such as those resembling system warnings), and that it also disabled over 10,000 sites that were offering unwanted software. As a result, the number of unwanted downloads via Google ads went down by over 99 percent in 2015, the Internet giant claims.

According to Google, it also stopped showing ads on over 25,000 mobile apps because the developers didn’t follow the company’s policies, with more than two-thirds of these being mobile ads placed very close to buttons, causing accidental clicks. Overall in 2015, the company rejected more than 1.4 million applications that wanted to show Google ads but did not comply to its policies.

Also in 2015, Google launched a new design for its Ads Settings, allowing users to manage their ads experience. Users can mute ads to ensure Google won’t display it again, and can also inform the company on why they want to block ads.

Last year, the company received more than 4 billion pieces of feedback on ads and says that it is focused on continuing updating its technology and policies based on user feedback. This year, the company will add restrictions to what can be advertised as effective for weight loss and will also add new protections against malware and bots.


The annual financial impact of bot fraud is expected to top estimated global losses of around $7.2 billion in 2016, a recent report from White Ops and the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) found.  Released this month, the 2015 Bot Baseline Study found that annual financial impact of bot fraud ranged between $250,000 and $42 million for the 49 advertisers participating in the study, and that the financial impact averaged about $10 million per participant. The study measured bot fraud, or non-human traffic, over a 61-day timeframe, from August 1 to September 30, 2015. 

Google’s ad network is not the only one targeted by cybercriminals looking to scam users or infect their computers with malware. In August last year, a large malvertising attack was found to have hit the Yahoo! advertising network, and CloudFlare discovered in September a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack that appeared to leverage a mobile ad network and malicious JavaScript.

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