Google kicked 200 publishers off one of its ad networks in the fourth quarter, partly in response to the proliferation of fake news sites.
The company banned the publishers from its AdSense network, an ad placement service that automatically serves text and display ads on participating sites based on its audience. The ban was part of an update to an existing policy that prohibits sites that mislead users with their content.
Google regularly weeds out advertisers for false or misleading claims, but impersonating news sites became an addition following the rapid rise of fake news, or propaganda sites. After the election, Google was blasted for placing a false story from a fake news site claiming Donald Trump had won the popular vote. (He had 2.8 million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton.)
Not all 200 publishers were swept up as part of the effort to root out fake news sites.
Publishers were banned in November and December and included sites that impersonate real news organizations through shortened top-level domains, according to Google’s 2016 “bad ads” report, normally released at the beginning of each year.
So-called fake news publishers will sometimes take advantage of “.co” domains by appearing similar to legitimate news sites that would normally end in “.com.”
Google declined to provide a listing of the banned sites.
Separately, the annual report on violations of advertising policy also included data on ads removed by Google. The company reported that in 2016 it took down 1.7 billion ads for violations, compared to 780 million in 2015.
Google attributes the increase in ad removals to a combination of advertiser behavior and improvements in technology to detect offending ads.
Google added a policy mid-year to prohibit ads for payday loans, considered predatory. Roughly five million payday loan ads were disabled over the latter six months of 2016.
Also among those the removed ads were what Google calls “tabloid cloakers.” These advertisers run what look like links to news headlines, but when the user clicks, an ad for a product such as a weight loss supplement pops up. Google suspended 1,300 accounts engaged in tabloid cloaking in 2016.
Correction: the original headline stated 200 publishers were banned in a three month period, when it was actually less than two months.