Google, which banned cryptocurrency advertisements from its platform earlier this year, will be partially rolling back that policy as of October.
The policy was originally enacted to protect consumers from the burgeoning number of crypto-scams that have afflicted the market for years and reached a fever pitch as the price of several digital currencies exploded in 2017 (before imploding in early 2018 to disastrous effect). Google appears to be doing some backtracking, though not entirely: According to a blog post flagged by CNBC, it will only allow “regulated cryptocurrency exchanges to advertise in the United States and Japan.”
Advertisers will need to be certified with Google for the specific country in which their ads will serve. Advertisers will be able to apply for certification once the policy launches in October.
Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and even smaller services like MailChimp have all introduced various restrictions on ads for cryptocurrency sales and/or initial coin offerings (ICOs), an only loosely regulated type of investment vehicle commonly associated with scams and financial wipeouts. In a prelude to Google’s current decision, Facebook later let back pre-approved ads on its platform. Neither company has budged on ICOs, which is probably for the best.
At the time of the original ban, Google staff said they had noticed significant potential harm to consumers from bogus crypto advertisements. CNBC wrote:
“We don’t have a crystal ball to know where the future is going to go with cryptocurrencies, but we’ve seen enough consumer harm or potential for consumer harm that it’s an area that we want to approach with extreme caution,” Google’s Scott Spencer told CNBC at the time of its original ban.
Google is likely loosening restrictions now because the overall cryptocurrency market has cooled off significantly. Earlier this month, banking giant Goldman Sachs backed off plans to open a dedicated cryptocurrency trading desk. The Securities and Exchange Commission has opened a dedicated cyber unit that began launching enforcement actions last year, and the agency has started to pay attention to a number of shady investment vehicles. South Korea and China have also launched sweeping crackdowns on broad sections of the market.
The search giant said it took down 3.2 billion ads in 2017, and more recently launched a crackdown on tech support scams after a spate of bad press. Google has regularly been plagued by lawsuits claiming it does not do enough to police click fraud, in which ads appear on purpose or by accident on invalid websites that fail to drive traffic.