Google removed more than 99 million malicious Covid-19 ads in 2020

Google removed more than 99 MILLION malicious Covid ads for fake cures and vaccine in 2020

  • Tech giant blocked or removed approximately 3.1 billion ads for violating policies
  • Among the 3.1 billion adverts removed were over 99 million related to Covid-19 
  • Google policies and enforcement were put to the test in 2020 due to coronavirus

Google blocked more than 99 million Covid-related ads in 2020, including those for ‘miracle cures’ and fake vaccine doses, the firm reveals in a new report. 

In all, Google blocked or removed approximately 3.1 billion ads last year for violating its policies and restricted an additional 6.4 billion ads. 

The tech giant’s annual Ads Safety Report reveals how hard it’s had to work to keep up with ‘bad actors’ looking for new ways to scam people online.  

Last year, it tackled price-gouging on in-demand products like hand sanitiser, masks and paper goods, as well as ads promoting false cures.   

Google blocked more than 99 million Covid-related ads from serving throughout the year, including those for miracle cures, N95 masks due to supply shortages, and most recently, fake vaccine doses


3.1 billion adverts removed, incluidng:

– Over 99 million related to Covid-19

– 867 million for attempting to evade detection systems 

– 101 million ads for violating misrepresentation policies 

 – 1.7 million ad accounts disabled for policy violations

Another 6.4 billion ads restricted  

‘In 2020, our policies and enforcement were put to the test,’ said Scott Spencer, Google’s vice president for Ads Privacy & Safety, in a blog post. 

‘We collectively navigated a global pandemic, multiple elections around the world and the continued fight against bad actors looking for new ways to take advantage of people online. 

‘Thousands of Googlers worked around the clock to deliver a safe experience for users, creators, publishers and advertisers.’ 

The number of ad accounts disabled for policy violations increased by 70 per cent from 1 million the year prior to more than 1.7 million. 

The firm also blocked or removed over 867 million ads for attempting to evade its detection systems and an additional 101 million ads for violating its policies on misrepresentation.     

As Covid-19 began its lethal spread at the start of last year, Google enforced its sensitive events policy, which is rolled out during fast-moving events in order to avoid confusion among the public. 

In all, Google blocked or removed approximately 3.1 billion ads in 2020 for violating its policies and restricted an additional 6.4 billion ads

This move prohibited content seeking to ‘capitalise on the pandemic, or lacks reasonable sensitivity towards this global health crises’. 

‘We evolved our enforcement strategy to start allowing medical providers, health organisations, local governments and trusted businesses to surface critical updates and authoritative content, while still preventing opportunistic abuse, Spencer said.

‘As claims and conspiracies about the coronavirus’s origin and spread were circulated online, we launched a new policy to prohibit both ads and monetised content about Covid-19 or other global health emergencies that contradict scientific consensus.’ 

Google’s ad policies also helped prevent ‘confusion’ immediately after the US presidential election in November. 

The firm blocked ads related to the election after polls closed on November 3 – a policy that was in operation through to early December. 

‘As it became clear the outcome of the presidential election would not be determined immediately, we determined that the US election fell under our sensitive events policy,’ Spencer said.

‘We made this decision to limit the potential for ads to amplify confusion in the post-election period,’ Spencer said. 

Google paused more than five million ads and blocked ads on over three billion Search queries referencing the election, the candidates or its outcome, he revealed. 

Google blocked ads related to last year’s US presidential election – won by President Joe Biden (pictured) after polls closed on November 3. 

An increased investment in automated detection technology meant Google was also ‘vastly’ increase its enforcement.

Specifically due to this investment, it removed ads from 1.3 billion publisher pages in 2020, up from 21 million in 2019.  

Spencer said Google planned to continue such development going forward.

‘We know that when we make decisions through the lens of user safety, it will benefit the broader ecosystem,’ he said.

‘Preserving trust for advertisers and publishers helps their businesses succeed in the long term. 

‘In the upcoming year, we will continue to invest in policies, our team of experts and enforcement technology to stay ahead of potential threats.’  



The social network is giving the World Health Organisation as many free ads as it needs in a bid to get accurate health information to users of the platform as clearly as possible. 

It also launched the ‘Coronavirus Information Centre’ – a dedicated webpage with COVID-19 resources and advice. 

This is being promoted at the top of users’ News Feeds, directing them to the latest updates and guidance from the NHS and WHO.  

Facebook is also making its Workplace platform available to governments and emergency services for free in a bid to help those dealing with the coronavirus.

All government organisations globally, at a national or local level, are eligible to claim 12 months of free access to the premium tier of Workplace. 

 Facebook has already been sending myth-busting messages to users’ news feeds if they have interacted with posts containing ‘harmful misinformation’ about coronavirus such as conspiracy theories. 


Twitter also recently resolved to delete tweets from its site that promote conspiracy theories, misleading or dangerous advice and other harmful ideas relating to coronavirus. 

Tweets that deny ‘established scientific facts’ and expert guidance regarding the virus will be marked as harmful and removed, the site said in a blog post. 

It gave examples of inaccurate tweets that would be deleted swiftly, including ‘people with dark skin are immune to COVID-19 due to melanin production’, ‘use aromatherapy and essential oils to prevent COVID-19’ and ‘the news about washing your hands is propaganda for soap companies, stop washing your hands!’.  


Google also teamed up with WHO to launch an SOS Alert dedicated to the coronavirus, which appears at the top of search results when users type ‘coronavirus’. 

The search engine is prioritising information on the virus from the WHO, including official WHO updates on the spread of the virus and how to stay safe. 

The company started showing fact-checking labels to US viewers on its video platform YouTube in April in a bid to curb coronavirus misinformation, which exploded on social media as the pandemic intensified. 

Google later brought fact-checking labels to Google Images search results globally in June.   

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