Google Tackles Fake Ads as #COVID19 Counterfeits Surge

Google has taken steps to crackdown on fake or misleading advertising as fraudulent ads and counterfeits surge during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The tech giant revealed in a post on Thursday that it would be extending its identity verification policy from political ads to all advertising on its platforms, in a bid to improve transparency.

“As part of this initiative, advertisers will be required to complete a verification program in order to buy ads on our network,” explained director of product management, John Canfield.

“Advertisers will need to submit personal identification, business incorporation documents or other information that proves who they are and the country in which they operate.”

By hovering over an ad listing, users will soon be able to see the name, location and other information about the advertiser.

“This change will make it easier for people to understand who the advertiser is behind the ads they see from Google and help them make more informed decisions when using our advertising controls,” claimed Canfield. “It will also help support the health of the digital advertising ecosystem by detecting bad actors and limiting their attempts to misrepresent themselves.”

Although the program will start in the US this summer, it could take years to complete, which may be too late to stop the surge in scams peddling counterfeit and fake COVID-19 products.

Earlier this month, industry bodies the Anti-Counterfeiting Group (ACG) and Transnational Alliance to Combat Illicit Trade (TRACIT) urged stay-at-home consumers to exercise caution as they are bombarded with ads for counterfeit and ineffective products.

These include surgical face masks, hand sanitizers, testing kits, thermometers, cleaning solutions, toilet paper, anti-bacterial wipes, indoor sports equipment, refrigeration appliances , food products and more.

“The expectations are that the availability of these products on the internet will increase dramatically, especially with the closure of retail stores and the imposition of social distancing,” argued ACG director general, Phil Lewis.

“People must be especially careful when ordering online from websites, e-commerce platforms and social media where outright fraud and advertising of fakes is already a major problem.”

At the end of March, INTERPOL announced a $14m seizure of counterfeit medical and pharmaceutical supplies. Over 100 arrests were made and 37 organized crime groups supposedly dismantled.

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