Google to ban cryptocurrency advertising, starting in June
Ads are a prime phishing vector, and this ban stands to make the crypto space measurably safer.
Google will be updating its ad policies related to financial services with an outright ban on any advertising about cryptocurrency-related content, including ICOs, wallets and trading advice, on all of its platforms for aggregators and affiliates. The ban will start from June 2018.
"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 that it's an area that we want to approach with extreme caution," said Google director of sustainable ads, Scott Spencer, to CNBC.
It's following in the footsteps of Facebook, which previously implemented its own outright crytopcurrency advertising ban.
While the focus of the Google advertising ban might be to crack down on scammy ICOs, an equally significant benefit might be an end to the phishing sites that often pop up in Google search ad slots.
For example, one of the ads below will take users to the real Binance while the other is a scam.
The top URL is the real one. The second one actually says binαnce, with an alpha symbol instead of an "a".
This scam is basically about creating a website that looks as close to the original as possible, and then giving it a URL that looks as close to the original as possible. When someone ends up on your website instead of the real one, you can pick up their usernames and passwords and potentially foist some malware onto their systems. But it's almost impossible to SEO-wrangle a fake site to the first page of Google search results, so Google ads like that are an extremely useful attack vector. This was the kind of scam that led to the recent attack on Binance.
There have also been instances of cryptojackers playing in YouTube ads, which might also be better-caught by the new ban. Not that they were allowed previously.
Legitimate cryptocurrencies and related services may have increasingly few reasons to use paid advertising, so this move might be welcomed by a lot of people.
Disclosure: At the time of writing the author holds ETH, IOTA, ICX, VEN, XLM, SALT, BTC and NANO.