Google blocked and removed 2.7 billion bad ads in 2019 – equivalent to more than 5,000 bad ads per minute – and suspended nearly one million advertiser accounts for policy violations.
This is a 17% increase on the 2.3 billion bad ads that Google said it removed in 2018.
It also terminated more than 1.2 million publisher accounts and removed ads from more than 21 million web pages that are part of its publisher network for violating its policies.
The tech behemoth revealed the figures in a blog post that provided details on the most common forms of advertising abuse it recorded in 2019.
One of the most common practices Google blocks is phishing, in which bad actors collect personal information from users under false pretences. Last year, Google said it saw more bad actors targeting people seeking to renew their passports. These ads mimicked real ads for renewal sites, but their actual intent was to get users to provide sensitive information such as their social security or credit card numbers.
Another common area of abuse Google said it recorded in 2019 was "trick to click" ads – which are designed to trick people into interacting with them by using prominent links (for example, "click here") amid art that is often designed to look like computer or mobile-phone system warnings.
Google formed an internal team to track the patterns and signals of these types of fraudulent advertisers in 2019 and claims to have seen a nearly 50% decrease in bad ads served in both categories from the previous year. In total, it blocked more than 35 million phishing ads and 19 million "trick to click" ads in 2019.
It removed 9.6 million personal-loan ads with misleading information on lending terms – double the figure from 2018 – after broadening its policy on loan-related ads.
The search giant has also detailed how it has been working to prevent fraud related to Covid-19, after seeing a "sharp spike" in fraudulent ads for in-demand products such as face masks as the outbreak evolved.
In the blog post, Scott Spencer, vice-president of product management for ads privacy and safety, said Google has a dedicated Covid-19 task force "that’s been working around the clock" to build new detection technology and improve its existing enforcement systems to stop bad actors from taking advantage of users during the novel coronavirus outbreak.
This task force has blocked and removed "tens of millions" of coronavirus-related ads over the past few months for policy violations including price-gouging, capitalising on global medical supply shortages, making misleading claims about cures and promoting illegitimate unemployment benefits.
It has simultaneously been helping NGOs, governments, hospitals and healthcare providers run public-service announcements about coronavirus in order to increase the visibility of important and reliable information during the pandemic.