Google will bar advertising from running alongside coronavirus-related content that goes against ‘authoritative scientific consensus’
Google has said it plans to introduce tougher controls on the way its advertising platforms are used in connection with “dangerous” coronavirus-related content.
The company said that beginning next month it will stop organisers from running ads alongside “dangerous content” that goes against scientific consensus during the pandemic.
Ads are also to be prevented from running alongside conspiracy theories related to Covid-19, and Google said that if a site passes a certain threshold the entire site would be banned from displaying Google-enabled ads.
The company already prohibits ads from running along with content that makes harmful claims about disease prevention or unsubstantiated cures, such as anti-vaccination content.
The newly expanded rules will now cover claims that go against “authoritative scientific consensus”, such as conspiracy theories that claim vaccines are being used to genetically modify the population, that Bill Gates created Covid-19 or that the virus was created as a bioweapon in a Chinese lab.
The policy doesn’t apply to pages reporting on the existence of such theories or debunking them, or to non-coronavirus conspiracy theories.
“We are putting additional safeguards in place by expanding our harmful health claims policies for both publishers and advertisers to include dangerous content about a health crisis that contradicts scientific consensus,” Google said in a statement.
Google is the dominant player in online advertising, receiving $135 billion (£108bn) in 2019 from programmes such as AdSense and Ad Manager.
The company said it would begin enforcing the new rules from 18 August.
It said sites must reach a percentage threshold for an entire site to be removed from ad programmes, but didn’t disclose details.
Companies such as Facebook and Google have come under increasing pressure to control misinformation relating to sensitive topics that is spread through their sites.
In March Google briefly banned all non-governmental coronavirus-related ads, but reversed the decision after criticism from Democratic campaign groups.
Google has also removed advertising from YouTube videos related to the pandemic and temporarily banned ads for face mask sales.
The tactic was also adopted by Facebook in order to prevent price-gouging.
Google has attracted criticism in the past for removing ads from high-profile sites such as conservative site Zero Hedge, which it cited for pervasive racism in its user comments section.
Google recently confirmed it had restored the site’s advertising after changes to its comment moderation policies.