Google has released some surprising statistics in its annual report outlining bad ads and scammers, most notably that they removed 1.7 billion ads in 2016. In the report released on January 25, Google details how it has cracked down on fake news ads in the past year and how the number of ads removed has increased since 2015.
According to the report, 2015 saw Google remove approximately 780 million ads—more than half the number the more recently removed in 2016. They also saw an increase in the number of payday loan ads removed due to their inability to meet ad criteria that went into effect last July. Since that time, Google has taken down more than five million of this type of ad and no longer accepts or displays ads promoting payday loans requiring repayment within 60 days.
With updates to the system, Google also managed to become better at spotting bad ads more reliably. Especially with “trick to click” ads, ads that look like system error notifications that trick users into downloading dangerous malware, Google has managed to detect and remove 112 million in 2016; a six-fold increase from the previous year. They’ve also managed to better detect what Google calls “self-clicking” ads on mobile devices. Though not matching the big numbers in other areas, Google also still managed to disabled more than 23,000 of these “self-clicking” ads in 2016. In 2015, that number was just a few thousand.
Google was also successful in detecting and suspending 1,300 accounts responsible for posting “tabloid cloaking” ads; ads that present themselves as news or entertainment but actually leads to sites selling questionable goods, like weight-loss products that make outrageous claims. In a time when fake news is a news story in itself, it’s an accomplishment in Google’s books, though they say this type of ad is growing in popularity among advertisers. Unfortunately, these type of ads receive clicks—in December 2016, for example, Google took down 22 cloaking advertisers responsible for ads viewed more than 20 million times in just one week.
Other notable stats Google managed to rack up in 2016 were the removal of 68 million ads for unapproved pharmaceuticals, as well as 80 million ads for deceiving and shocking users.
In publishing news, Google made updates to its AdSense misrepresentative content policy in November, reviewing 550 sites possibly misrepresenting content and impersonating news organizations. Google says it banned almost 200 publishers from the network while taking action against another 340 for other violations.
Google also ended their report by saying that the battle against bad ads is an ongoing one. While the company was successful in the removal of over a billion ads, it’s important to support causes such as the Coalition for Better Ads, especially as scammers find more elaborate ways to game the system.