Google blocked or removed 3.1 billion bad ads in 2020

Over 99 million of these ads were from bad actors trying to capitalize on the pandemic, stated Google's annual Ad Safety Report

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Mar 17, 2021 5:30 PM

Marking a decade of enabling a safe digital advertising ecosystem, Google today released its annual Ad Safety Report for 2020. The report highlights the efforts behind preventing malicious ads and showcases how Google is building transparency on its advertising platforms. In 2020, globally, Google blocked 3.1 billion bad ads, including 99 million COVID-19 related ads from serving wrong information to users. The number of ad accounts Google disabled for policy violations in 2020 increased by 70% to over 1.7 million. It also blocked or removed over 867 million ads for attempting to evade its detection systems, including cloaking, and an additional 101 million ads for violating the misrepresentation policies.

In a blog published on the 10th edition of the Google Ads Safety Report, Scott Spencer, Vice President - Ads Privacy & Safety, Google, said, “In 2020, our policies and enforcement were put to the test as we collectively navigated a global pandemic, multiple elections around the world and the continued fight against bad actors looking for new ways to take advantage of people online. Thousands of Googlers worked around the clock to deliver a safe experience for users, creators, publishers and advertisers. We know that when we make decisions through the lens of user safety, it will benefit the broader ecosystem. Preserving trust for advertisers and publishers helps their businesses succeed in the long term.”

In 2020, Google also added or updated more than 40 policies for advertisers and publishers. In addition to blocking or removing approximately 3.1 billion ads for violating Google’s advertising  policies, the company restricted an additional 6.4 billion ads. This is the first year Google is sharing information on ad restrictions, a core part of the overall strategy. Restricting ads allows the company to tailor its approach based on geography, local laws and certification programs, so that approved ads only show where appropriate, regulated and legal.

Malicious and misleading ads related to the pandemic was a major concern throughout the year, including those for miracle cures, N95 masks due to supply shortages, and most recently, fake vaccine doses. As the number of COVID-19 cases rose around the world last year, so did the price-gouging of in-demand products and those promoting false cures. Preventing such behaviour, Google released COVID policy ads. It also launched a new policy to prohibit both ads and monetized content about COVID-19 or other global health emergencies that contradict scientific consensus.

Google continued to invest in its automated detection technology to effectively scan the web for publisher policy compliance at scale. Due to this investment, it also stopped ads from serving on over 1.6 million publisher sites with pervasive or egregious violations.

Fighting the newest forms of fraud and scams

In 2020, Google tackled bad actors from using cloaking to hide from its detection, promote non-existent virtual businesses or run ads for phone-based scams or lure unsuspecting consumers with an aim to defraud them, in a few key ways:

  • It introduced multiple new policies and programs including advertiser identity verification program and business operations verification program.
  • Invested in technology to better detect coordinated adversarial behavior, allowing Google to connect the dots across accounts and suspend multiple bad actors at once.
  • Improved its automated detection technology and human review processes based on network signals, previous account activity, behavior patterns and user feedback.


In April 2020, Google also introduced an advertiser identity verification program and is currently verifying advertisers in more than 20 countries. It has started to share the details About this ad feature to inform people about the creators of the ads so that they can make more informed decisions.

In the upcoming year, Google will continue to invest in policies, team of experts and enforcement technology to stay ahead of potential threats. It will also remain steadfast on their path to scale their verification programs around the world in order to increase transparency and make more information about the ad experience universally available.

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