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Google Steps Up Fight Against
Google Steps Up Fight Against 'Bad' Ad Barrage

By Alistair Barr
January 22, 2014 9:34AM

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Stepping up its battle against counterfeiters, suspect downloads and other malicious activity on the web, Google removed almost 1 million suspect ads a day from its systems and disapproved more than three million applications to join its ad networks in 2013. Google's AdWords and AdSense are a huge draw for what it calls "bad actors."

Google yanked 59% more "bad" advertisements from its online systems last year as the world's largest Internet search provider stepped up a battle against a barrage of counterfeiters, suspect downloads and other malicious activity on the Web.

Google removed more than 350 million bad ads in 2013, up from about 220 million the year before, almost 1 million suspect ads a day. The increase was partly driven by the surge in online advertising, most of which is legitimate. But as Google introduces products, scammers adapt and develop new ways to game the system. "It's a challenge," says Mike Hochberg, ads engineering director who oversees hundreds of engineers and policy experts who focus on this at the company. "Google continues to add new types of ads and formats all the time, and that creates new work to track down new ways of creating bad ads."

Google's online ad business has become so lucrative, generating billions of dollars a year in profit for itself and its partners, that the company's platforms, such as AdWords and AdSense, are a huge draw for what it calls "bad actors" looking to grab some of this money.

In 2011, Google agreed to pay $500 million to settle Justice Department allegations that ads for Canadian online pharmacies contributed to illegal importation of prescription drugs. Last year, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood said Google was still allowing ads for illegal online pharmacies that sell dangerous or counterfeit drugs without a prescription.

Google published a scorecard on its battle against such activity for the first time in early 2013; the company is releasing the second report today.

Hochberg says the reports and Google's increased efforts to limit bad ads and online scams were not related to the counterfeiting settlement. "Ensuring that we are serving good ads for users has been part of our ad programs from day one," he says. "Last year, we decided to put out a pseudo scorecard of what we have been doing."

The latest report suggests Google is making progress. The number of advertisers Google disabled dropped from more than 850,000 in 2012 to slightly more than 270,000 in 2013.

"We attribute this decline to many scammers -- counterfeiters, for example -- being thwarted by our security efforts," Hochberg says.

Google banned slightly more than 14,000 advertisers for trying to sell counterfeit goods in 2013, a decline of more than 80% compared with 2012. Again, Hochberg cited Google's increased efforts to stop such activity. (continued...)

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