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The volume of complaints about ads for counterfeit products fell by 85% in 2012 and by another 78% in 2013. Attempts to market counterfeit goods decreased by 47% in 2012, and 82% in 2013, Google says. "This activity peaked somewhere toward end of 2011 and early 2012," Hochberg says.
While ads for counterfeit goods have been on the decline, there has been an increase in other questionable activities, including artificially inflating the number of clicks on ads, showing ads on Web sites with violent or pornographic content and downloads that install toolbars and other software that interfere with browsing by inserting ads unexpectedly.
Google took aim at toolbar downloads last year, a big business, involving companies such as Ask, the online search business owned by IAC InterActive, and Blucora, Perion and AVG. Hochberg and Google spokesman Aaron Stein declined to talk about specific companies. However, Google tightened policies last year, requiring that such software be pre-approved by the company, be installed on only one browser at a time, can be uninstalled with one click and provide clear disclosure on what is being installed and what changes are being made to a user's devices.
By the end of 2013, Google had blacklisted more than 200,000 publisher sites in its ad network and removed more than 250,000 publisher accounts for violations such as artificially inflating clicks or including ads on sites with violent content.
Google disapproved more than 3 million applications to join its ad networks in 2013. Hochberg notes a chunk of these applications were probably from the same entities re-applying multiple times.
"The great majority of ads are good," he says. "My team's job is to keep a lid on the bad stuff."
"Bad" ads accounted for less than 1% of the total in 2013, he noted, while declining to be specific. Google has cut this percentage rate by about half each year since 2011, he says.
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