Expanding our Misrepresentation policy to better address clickbait advertising

July 15, 2020

Digital advertising plays a key role in ensuring billions of people around the world have access to accurate, quality information online. When a user clicks on an ad, we want to instill confidence that the service or product being promoted is clear and users are not being deceived. That’s why we have robust Google Ads policies outlining the types of advertising we do and don’t allow. 

We regularly review and update our policies to ensure we are protecting users, advertisers and publishers within our network. Today, we’re expanding our Misrepresentation policies to better address clickbait tactics and sensationalist language. This policy will prevent ads that use tragedies, scandals and shame to pressure people to click immediately, when the claim is either false or lacks urgency. 

Sensationalist language or imagery that does nothing more than trick people into clicking is not a new tactic in advertising, however, we’ve found it is more commonly used by bad actors looking to take advantage of users on our platforms. Previously, these tactics were prohibited by a combination of our policies including the Shocking Content, Misrepresentation and Editorial policies. Our new Clickbait policy helps to clarify the types of ads we don’t allow and makes it easier for all advertisers to comply with our policies in the future.

Over the past year, we’ve seen an increase in bad actors using pressure tactics, celebrity images, cliffhanger language and graphic content to gain more clicks. And tackling this challenge has been a focus of our team for many years — in 2019, for example, we took down over 51 million sensationalist ads. Ads will point to negative events or behaviors such as death, accidents, arrests, personal tragedies, among others to get people to click on the ad right away. For example an ad might say “Scandalous revelation about Mary, click here to find out more!” or “He won't stop - shamed in rehab! Click here now!” Such sensationalist language instills a false sense of urgency for users who want to know what happened immediately. In reality, these statements are often not true or are exaggerated and fail to disclose the product or service behind the ad. Additionally, in the case of prominent figures or celebrities, ads will also include their photo, making the content seem more real and further pressure a user to click through.

Today’s new Clickbait Ads policy will expand our approach, enabling our teams to prevent this behavior more effectively in the future. We are committed to creating a high-quality experience for our users, where the promotion is clear from the ad itself.  We will continue to look for ways to stop deceptive practices like these on our platform as we prioritize instilling trust in the digital advertising ecosystem.


Posted by Sema Karaman, Policy Advisor, Ads 


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