GOOGLE BITCOIN BAN: NEW POLICY ON CRYPTOCURRENCY
June 5, 2018 11:03 am,
The new policy, which comes into effect this month, follows similar bans from Facebook and Twitter. Google announced the ban in a blogpost in March, stating: “Ads for the following will no longer be allowed to serve. Cryptocurrencies and related content (including but not limited to initial coin offerings, cryptocurrency exchanges, cryptocurrency wallets, and cryptocurrency trading advice.”
Both Google and Facebook have recently revealed their interest in cryptocurrencies and their underlying blockchain technology, leading to speculation that the advert ban is not solely motivated by a desire to confront criminality.
“I understand that Facebook and Google are under a lot of pressure to regulate what their users are reading, but they are still advertising gambling websites and other unethical practices,” said Phillip Nunn, CEO of Manchester-based investment firm Blackmore.
“I suspect the ban has been implemented to fit in with potential plans to introduce their own cryptocurrency to the market in the near future and therefore removing other crypto adverts allows them to do it on their own terms.”
In May, Google reportedly approached the founder of ethereum – the world’s second most valuable cryptocurrency in terms of market capitalisation – in the hope of potentially securing his services.
A Google spokesperson declined to comment on either the ban or speculation surrounding its cryptocurrency and blockchain ambitions, however a spokesperson told Business Insider in March that it was looking into the technology.
“Like many new technologies, we have individuals in various teams exploring potential use of blockchain, but it’s too early for us to speculate about any possible uses or plans,” the spokesperson said.
Facebook also hinted at its blockchain ambitions in May, as it announced the biggest management reshuffle in its history.
David Marcus, the former head of Facebook Messenger, announced that he will lead an exploratory blockchain group that will report directly to the company’s CTO, Mike Schrieffer.
Facebook’s attempts to block adverts promoting anything related to cryptocurrency faced difficulties when its new policy was introduced in January, with marketers using simple tricks to circumvent it.
For example, words like “cryptocurrency” were abbreviated to “c-currency” and the letter “o” in the word “bitcoin” was switched to a zero.
The blanket ban by Google is self-imposed and follows a pattern of large tech platforms pre-empting regulatory bodies by policing their own platforms.
As cryptocurrencies have become more popular, scammers are increasingly using Facebook and Google to promote shady cryptocurrencies and exchanges and defraud customers.
Recent research into initial coin offerings (ICO) – the process of selling units of a cryptocurrency ahead of its launch – found that as many as 80 per cent of ICOs were fraudulent.
Clamping down specifically on these types of adverts is seen as a positive thing, as the proliferation of these adverts hurts the perception of the space in general. However, the nature of the ban is seen as unfairly targeting this emerging industry.
“Unfortunately, the fact that this ban is a blanket ban will mean that legitimate cryptocurrency businesses which provide valuable services to users will be unfairly caught in the crossfire,” said Ed Cooper, head of mobile at digital banking startup Revolut.