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Google Moves to Ban Ads for Bitcoin, Cryptocurrency

Following a similar no-quarter approach taken by Facebook, Google plans to ban crypto-related advertising starting in June.

The ban includes ads for initial coin offerings (ICOs), wallets and trading advice, across any Google platforms. The prohibition will be far ranging: Google’s ad engines place ads on not just its own sites but also on third-party outlets.

The concern is that virtual currency speculation has created a boom in the sector, yet the space largely lacks regulation and consumer protections. Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Monero and others have also been the impetus for various fraud efforts and are at the heart of coin-mining, which has proven to be a lucrative new revenue stream for cybercriminals.

"We don't have a crystal ball to know where the future is going to go with cryptocurrencies, but we've seen enough consumer harm or potential for consumer harm," Scott Spencer, Google's director of sustainable ads, told CNBC.

The change is part of Google’s update to its financial services-related ad policies. The search engine, which makes 84% of its revenue from advertising, is no stranger to censoring ads: In a report, it said it took down more than 3.2 billion ads in 2017 for violating its policies. That’s nearly double the 1.7 billion it removed in 2016.

The ban follows Facebook’s decision to prohibit ads that “promote financial products and services that are frequently associated with misleading or deceptive promotional practices, such as binary options, initial coin offerings and cryptocurrency.”

Enforcement is ramping up across Facebook’s platforms, including the main social media site, Audience Metrics and Instagram. 

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