Google Is Making Disinformation Profitable Through Its Ad-Selling Business, A New Report Claims

Zinger Key Points
  • Google regularly places ads, including those from major brands, on articles that appear to violate its policy, a report claims.
  • Google has publicly announced policies barring the placement of ads on content that makes unreliable assertions.

A new report claims that Alphabet Inc's GOOGL Google is making revenue via its ad practices for some of the most prolific purveyors of false information in Europe, Latin America, and Africa.

According to the Pro Publica analysis, Google allegedly makes disinformation profitable through its automated digital ad operation. It places advertisements on influential brands on global websites and spreads false claims on topics such as vaccines, COVID-19, climate change, and elections, the report claims.

As per the investigation, ProPublica went through more than 13,000 article pages from thousands of websites in more than half a dozen languages to determine whether they were currently earning ad revenue with Google.

They found that Google has placed ads on 41 percent of roughly 800 active online articles, rated by members of the Poynter Institute's International Fact-Checking Network as publishing false claims about COVID-19.

"The resulting ad revenue is worth millions of dollars to the people and groups running these and other unreliable sites -- while also making money for Google," said the report. 

Google has publicly announced policies barring the placement of ads on content that makes unreliable or harmful claims on a range of issues, including health, climate, elections, and democracy. 

The investigation found Google regularly places ads, including those from major brands, in articles that appear to violate its policy.

Also Read: Google Cracks Down On Happy Hour, Limits Business Trips, Encourages Virtual Options

Google spokesperson Michael Aciman said that Google has put more money into non-English-language enforcement and oversight, which has led to an increase in the number of ads blocked on pages that violate its rules.

"We've developed extensive measures to tackle misinformation on our platform, including policies that cover elections, Covid-19, and climate change, and work to enforce our policies in over 50 languages," Aciman was quoted as saying.

Meta Platform Inc's META Facebook has faced strong criticism for failures to crack down on disinformation spread by people and governments on their platforms around the world. 

However, according to the report, Google hasn't faced such scrutiny for how its roughly $200 billion in annual ad sales provides essential funding for non-English-language websites that misinform and harm the public. 

A former Google leader has acknowledged that the tech giant focuses heavily on English-language enforcement and is weaker across other languages and smaller markets.

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