Google on Wednesday revealed that it took down 1.7 billion "bad ads" in 2016, more than double the amount it removed the year before.
Around 112 million were so-called "trick to click" ads, which "often appear as system warnings to deceive users into clicking on them, not realizing they are often downloading harmful software or malware," Google's Director of Product Management for sustainable ads, Scott Spencer, wrote in a blog post. Google took down six times more "trick to click" ads last year than it did in 2015.
Nearly 80 million of the ads Google took down in 2016 were removed for being "deceiving, misleading, and shocking users." Examples of these include ads asking "'Are you at risk for this rare, skin-eating disease?' or offering miracle cures like a pill that will help you lose 50 pounds in three days without lifting a finger," Spencer wrote.
Meanwhile, bad ads for pharmaceuticals shot up last year: Google removed more than 68 million ads for "healthcare violations" in 2016, up from 12.5 million the year before. The company also took down more than 17 million bad ads for illegal gambling violations.
"A free and open web is a vital resource for people and businesses around the world. And ads play a key role in ensuring you have access to accurate, quality information online," Spencer wrote. "But bad ads can ruin the online experience for everyone. They promote illegal products and unrealistic offers. They can trick people into sharing personal information and infect devices with harmful software. Ultimately, bad ads pose a threat to users, Google's partners, and the sustainability of the open web itself."
Google also in 2016 removed: nearly 7 million ads for intentionally attempting to trick its detection systems; 5 million payday loan ads, which "often result in unaffordable payments and high default rates for users;" 900,000 ads that contained malware; and more than 23,000 "self-clicking" mobile ads, which just appear on your phone and download an app you didn't want, Spencer wrote.
Google in 2016 also discovered a new type of scammer its calling "tabloid cloakers," who try to game the system by pretending to offer news content.
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"Cloakers often take advantage of timely topics—a government election, a trending news story or a popular celebrity—and their ads can look like headlines on a news website," Spencer wrote. "But when people click on that story about Ellen DeGeneres and aliens, they go to a site selling weight-loss products, not a news story."
The company suspended more than 1,300 accounts for doing this.
Spencer explained that Google also often suspends websites and accounts associated with bad ads. The company last year disabled 8,000 sites promoting payday loans, plus 6,000 sites and 6,000 accounts attempting to advertise counterfeit goods. Google also "took action" against 47,000 sites "for promoting content and products related to weight-loss scams" and 15,000 sites for unwanted software.