Google next month will ban publishers from using its ad platform to show advertisements next to content that promotes conspiracy theories about Covid-19. It will also ban ads that promote those theories. In cases where a particular site publishes a certain threshold of material that violates these policies, it will ban the entire site from using its ad platforms.
Alphabet's Google already prohibits ads from running against content that makes harmful claims about disease prevention and unsubstantiated cures, including anti-vaccine promotions or content that encourages users to forgo treatment. The company is now taking it a step further and banning ads against content that make claims going against authoritative scientific consensus. Banned claims would include conspiracy theories like vaccines being attempts to genetically modify the population, that Bill Gates created Covid-19 or that the disease was a bioweapon made in a Chinese lab.
Google received nearly $135 billion in advertising revenue in 2019, in part through programs like AdSense and Ad Manager, in which websites that are approved can run programmatic advertising on their sites and make money using Google. About 15% of Google's revenue in the first quarter came from "Google Network Members' properties," which the company said in its annual report primarily comes from sites participating in AdMob, AdSense and Google Ad Manager programs.
Google will begin enforcing the change on Aug. 18, and can remove ads from single articles or, in some cases, entire sites. When it comes to removing ads from an entire site, the company said for most of its policies it has a percentage threshold for policy violations before it will fully demonetize a website. (The violation of some policies, like one preventing child sex abuse material, is considered by the company to be so egregious that they result in immediate site-level action).
The news comes the same week as CNBC first reported that Google had begun running ads again on financial market website Zero Hedge. In mid-June, Google said it had taken action against Zero Hedge because of the comments section of the site, which Google said consistently violated its policy against dangerous and derogatory material. Google said Zero Hedge appealed the demonetization after deciding to remove the content and implementing comment moderation.