- REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
- Google is banning ads for cryptocurrencies and binary options from June.
- The search giant is also cracking down on adverts for other financial products such as CFDs, spread bets, and foreign exchange products.
- Facebook has also banned cryptocurrency adverts.
- Google’s crackdown comes amid sustained pressure on the tech giant over its advertising and content policing.
LONDON – Google plans to ban all cryptocurrencies and binary options adverts, and is cracking down on ads for other speculative financial instruments.
Scott Spencer, Google’s Director of Sustainable Ads, said in a blog post on Wednesday that the company has “updated several policies to address ads in unregulated or speculative financial products like binary options, cryptocurrency, foreign exchange markets and contracts for difference (or CFDs).”
The new policies, which come into force in June, ban adverts for binary options and “cryptocurrencies and related content (including but not limited to initial coin offerings, cryptocurrency exchanges, cryptocurrency wallets, and cryptocurrency trading advice).”
Google follows Facebook in banning cryptocurrency related advertising on its platform. Spencer said in his blog post that the crackdown is part of Google’s efforts to protect consumers from “online scams.”
Cryptocurrencies have exploded in popularity over the last year thanks to a surge in the price of bitcoin at the end of 2017. This coincided with a boom in so-called initial coin offerings (ICOs), where startups issue their own cryptocurrency in exchange for money to build their business.
But the entire space is unregulated in most markets and has attracted scammers looking to make quick money. Business Insider reported last year on the proliferation of “pump and dump” scams in the market, while sham ICO projects have become commonplace.
Google is also cracking down on ads for contracts for difference (CFD), spread betting, and foreign exchange products on its platform.
CFDs and spread bets are financial instruments that allow people to bet on the price movement of assets without actually owning them. Traders can gain exposure to stocks or metals, without incurring the higher fees associated with actually buying them. Providers typically offer leverage – borrowed money to invest with – of up to 50:1.
The products are high risk and the entire industry has come under increasing regulatory scrutiny across Europe over the past year. The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority warned in November that cryptocurrency CFDs “are extremely high-risk, speculative products” that “place you at risk of suffering significant losses.” The FCA found that 82% of people who use the products lose money, suggesting CFDs are more akin to gambling than investing.
Google said it is banning ads from affiliates and aggregators who serve this market. These websites earn a fee for referring new customers to these products but are lightly regulated. Google is also banning adverts for binary options, the most controversial and high-risk product in this corner of the market.
The search giant will require CFD, spread bet, and foreign exchange providers to register with it if they want to advertise on its platform and all providers must be licensed in the country they are targeting.
‘Improving the ads will continue to be a top priority’
Google’s financial advertising crackdown comes amid sustained pressure on the search giant, which also owns YouTube, over the way it runs its advertising operation. The company has been criticised by the press and politicians for allowing everything from radicalisation to profiting from addicts on its platform through lax policing of content and advertising.
Spencer said in his blog post that Google removed 3.2 billion “bad” ads last year and said: “Improving the ads experience across the web, whether that’s removing harmful ads or intrusive ads, will continue to be a top priority for us.”