Google has taken action against "fake news" by permanently banning over 200 websites and suspending 1,300 accounts. But, unlike the kind sites that distributed propaganda materials and biased stories during and after the election, Google's crackdown targeted those that promoted fake ads and illegal products.
Earlier this week, Scott Spencer, Google's Director of Product Management, released a blog post detailing the actions taken by the company against fake websites. As noted by the executive, many websites have been taking advantage of Google's AdSense program through various methods.
One of these techniques, which Spencer referred to as tabloid cloakers, involves posting headlines that appear as if they came from a legitimate news website. However, once users click on the headline, they will be redirected to a page selling various dubious products such as weight-loss pills.
According to Google, in 2016 alone, it suspended 1,300 AdSense accounts due to tabloid cloaking. Spencer stated that some of these accounts were responsible for the ads that used to appear over 20 million times a week.
In addition to suspending these accounts, Google also banned about 200 websites this year that use clickbait techniques. Similar to tabloid cloakers many of these sites rely on catching the attention of users by using misleading ads that tease shocking or unbelievable information. Sites that also sell or promote illegal items such as counterfeit goods were also included in the ban.
In total, Google has taken down 1.7 million ads. A bulk of these, or about 900,000 contained malware while around 47,000 were scam ads for weight-loss products. The company also suspended 6,000 sites that advertise fake items and another 15,000 accounts that use self-clicking ads, or those that automatically download unwanted apps and other software.
According to Spencer, the latest crackdown on these fake sites and accounts is a continuation of Google's efforts of protecting users from those looking to take advantage of them online.