By Alejandro Borgia, Director - Ads Privacy and Safety at Google
We know that people and businesses put enormous trust in Google when they use our products. That’s why we have thousands of people working around the clock to create and enforce effective advertiser and publisher policies to prevent abuse while enabling publishers and businesses of all sizes to thrive. We do this important work because a healthy ad-supported Internet means everyone can access quality information.
As the digital world continues to evolve, Google makes ongoing investments in our policies and enforcement so people can have the safest possible experience online. In 2022, we added or updated 29 policies for advertisers and publishers. This included expanding our financial services verification program to ten new countries, expanding protections for teens, and strengthening our elections ads policies.
These policies help protect people. In 2022, we removed over 5.2 billion ads, restricted over 4.3 billion ads, and suspended over 6.7 million advertiser accounts. This represents an increase of 2 billion more ads removed in 2022 from the previous year. We also blocked or restricted ads from serving on over 1.5 billion publisher pages and took broader site-level enforcement action on over 143,000 publisher sites. To enforce our policies at this scale, we rely on a combination of human reviews and automated systems powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning. This helps sort through content and better detect violations across the globe.
You can read our full 2022 Ads Safety Report for transparency into our enforcement data. Let’s take a moment to highlight a few of the key themes we tackled in 2022.
Protecting users from fraud and scams
Fraudulent activity continues to rise. While not unique to digital advertising, these scams can cause real financial harm and we are committed to combating them on our platforms.
In 2022, we expanded our financial services certification program which requires advertisers to demonstrate that they are authorized by their local regulator to promote their products and services. This measure adds a new layer of security against fraudsters and further safeguards people from financial scams. To date, we’ve launched this program in 11 countries including the United Kingdom, Australia, and Singapore. Going forward, we intend to further expand this program.
Despite our continued efforts, bad actors increasingly operate at a greater scale and with more sophistication. They use a variety of tactics to evade detection. For example, at the end of 2022 and into the new year, we faced a targeted campaign of scammers creating thousands of accounts to spread malware by impersonating popular software brands.
When we identify these coordinated threats, we urgently assess the situation and take action. In this example, we quickly identified how scammers were spreading their malware and put additional restrictions to block their ability to harm consumers. Over a one-month period, we blocked and removed tens of thousands of malicious advertisements and took action against the accounts associated with the bad ads.
Overall, in 2022, we blocked or removed 142 million advertisements for violating our misrepresentation policy and 198 million advertisements for violating our financial services policy.
Blocking and removing harmful content and combating misinformation
In recent years, we’ve developed extensive measures to tackle misinformation and unreliable claims in our advertising ecosystem. This includes our policies against harmful health claims and demonstrably false claims that could undermine trust and participation in elections. We’ve also developed an industry-leading policy against climate change denial. In 2022, we blocked ads from running on over 300,000 publisher pages that violated these policies and blocked over 24 million policy-violating ads from serving. In addition, we blocked and removed over 51.2 million ads for inappropriate content including hate speech, violence, and harmful health claims, and 20.6 million ads for dangerous products or services such as weapons and explosives.
Ahead of major elections around the world, we continued our efforts to provide voters with reliable information about the election ads they saw on our platforms. As part of that work, we expanded our verification and transparency program for election ads, verifying over 5,900 new advertising accounts in the US and over 2,300 in Brazil. Election ads from these advertisers included disclosures that showed who paid for the ads and also appeared in our Political Advertising on Google Transparency Report. We’ve also blocked over 2.6 million election ads that came from advertisers who had not completed our required verification process.
Responding to the war in Ukraine
Following the start of the war in Ukraine, we acted quickly to prohibit ads that exploit, dismiss, or condone the war. This is in addition to our longstanding policies prohibiting content that incites violence or denies the occurrence of tragic events to run as ads or monetize using our services.
We also paused the majority of our commercial activities in Russia across our products. We paused ads from showing in Russia along with ads from Russian-based advertisers and paused monetization of Russian state-funded media across our platforms.
Throughout 2022, we remained vigilant [in] enforcing these policies and blocked more than 17 million ads related to the war in Ukraine under our sensitive event policy. Separately, we removed ads from more than 275 state-funded media sites across our platforms.
Prioritizing child safety
When it comes to designing products and creating policies, one of our top priorities is to ensure the safety of kids and teens around the world. That’s why we’ve long blocked ads targeting and personalization for young kids. We’ve also filtered mature ad categories such as sexually explicit content and ads for gambling, alcohol, and pharmaceutical drugs. And, in 2021, we announced that we would expand these protections to all users under the age of 18 globally. This includes blocking ad targeting based on age, gender, or interests and preventing additional age-sensitive ad categories from serving to teens. We began rolling out these changes in Europe and completed that process globally last year. We also now prohibit ads promoting dating apps, contests, and sweepstakes, as well as weight loss products to people under 18.
Empowering users with more information and control
In addition to our policies and enforcement, we’re committed to leading the industry in giving users more information about the ads they see and putting them in control of their ads experience.
In October, we launched My Ad Center which helps people control the kinds of ads they see across Google on Search, YouTube, and Discover. It also allows them to limit ads from sensitive categories and learn more about the information used to personalize their ad experience. In the first three months after launch, we’ve seen more than 70 million visits to My Ad Center globally, with people adjusting their ad preferences on more than 20% of those visits.
We’ve also invested significantly in giving helpful information to users about our advertisers. In 2020, we began verifying advertiser identity and today we verify them in more than 240 countries and regions. In 2021, we launched advertiser pages in the United States which show basic information about a verified advertiser like where they are located, what type of business they provide, and other advertisements they’ve recently run. In 2022, we expanded this program globally.
Today I’m pleased to announce we are launching a new transparency tool, the Ads Transparency Center, a searchable repository of verified advertisers across all of our platforms, including Search, Display, and YouTube, that lets people search for a particular advertiser and view the advertiser page.
Looking ahead to 2023
Providing a safe and trustworthy ads experience for users is a critical contribution to Google’s mission to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. As 2023 continues, we will stay diligent in our efforts to combat abuse across our platforms while helping advertisers and publishers grow their businesses.
This article was originally published on Google's blog.