The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has revealed many facets of the human condition. On the one hand, many individuals are stepping up to help their neighbors in a huge way, and many tech companies are making their products available for free to remote workers. The flip side of this, however, has shown just how low individuals will stoop to take advantage of people already afraid and fighting for survival. Most egregious examples of this include hoarding essential supplies to price-gouge, and more recently, falsely advertising products that people desperately need to handle this crisis. These false coronavirus ads include personal protective equipment (PPEs) like surgical masks, emergency food supplies, disinfectant, over-the-counter medicine, and much more.
It is the last-named issue that Google is attempting to crack down on and hopefully slow its progression. According to a blog post written by John Canfield, Google’s director of product management, ads integrity, the tech giant is expanding its political advertising verification to fight back against false coronavirus ads. The post states the following about the steps Google will require advertisers to complete before they are allowed to post products for sale:
As part of this initiative, advertisers will be required to complete a verification program in order to buy ads on our network. 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... 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. It will also help support the health of the digital advertising ecosystem by detecting bad actors and limiting their attempts to misrepresent themselves.
Canfield states that Google hopes to roll out these changes by no later than this summer. It will initially focus on ads targeted toward the United States, but will soon expand globally. Google expects the process to take a “few years” before it becomes fully effective on a global scale. This is a problem because coronavirus will likely not have a vaccine by that point, at least according to multiple authorities in the medical field.
Nevertheless, late is better than never. It is just a shame this took so long to implement. In these trying times, innocent people are being swindled by hucksters looking to capitalize on their fear.
They cannot be allowed to succeed.
Featured image: Flickr/ Open Grid Scheduler / Grid Engine