Starting August 18, Google Will Prohibit Publishers from Running Ads on Content Promoting COVID-19 Conspiracy Theories

Last week, CNBC reported that Alphabet’s Google announced that the company will block ads that promote conspiracy theories about the coronavirus, remove ads from webpages that promote misinformed theories, and even demonetize entire websites that frequently violate Google’s new policy. CNBC notes that Google will implement this policy starting on August 18 of this year, and the new policy supplements an existing ban on monetizing harmful medical misleading information.

The company already prohibits ads on content that promotes harmful claims related to unproven health cures or disease prevention. A company’s spokesman confirmed the news and stated that the new policy will cover webpages that contradict an ‘authentic scientific consensus’ on the COVID-19 pandemic. While the tech giant already demonetizes false health claims, Google will soon demonetize false claims about the origin of the coronavirus pandemic, for instance.

However, the company will not apply the new policy on webpages (including Fact-Checking networks) that debunk or report on the existence of these conspiracy theories about the coronavirus pandemic. Moreover, it also does not apply to non-COVID-19-related conspiracy theories. Google’s spokesman told media outlets that the company is putting extra safeguards in place by expanding its harmful health claims policies for publishers as well as advertisers to include dangerous content related to a health crisis contradicting scientific consensus.

Google along with various other major web platforms have struggled with a constantly shifting misleading information landscape around the coronavirus pandemic. Back in March, Google briefly banned all non-governmental COVID-19-related, however, the ban was lifted after complaints from Democratic campaign organizations.

Moreover, Google has also demonetized YouTube videos that mention the pandemic, a strategy the tech giant has adopted around several sensitive topics. And during the product shortages early in the coronavirus pandemic, the company temporarily banned ads for the sale of face masks. This policy was also adopted by the social media giant, Facebook.

It is yet not clear how much content currently violates the new policy of Google, and whether particular websites will be demonetized under the new rules. In the past, high-profile ad removals have resulted in controversy including a temporary demonetization of Zero Hedge which is a conservative website. Google demonized this website due to pervasive racism in the site’s comment section.

Last week, the company confirmed that Google had reinstated Zero Hedge’s advertising after the site implemented moderation on the comments section and removed derogatory comments. After Google implements the new policy, only certain companies or government agencies will be allowed to run ads about the virus, including health providers and government organizations.

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