Google’s crypto ad ban unethical experts tell Indy

June 04, 2018
Chris Wheal

Google’s decision, announced in March and enforced in June, to ban all cryptocurrency advertising on its platforms is “ill-thought-out” and “unethical”, industry experts told the Independent newspaper on Monday.

The search engine said in March, as part of its financial services policy, that it would no longer serve ads for cryptocurrencies and related content such as initial coin offerings (ICO) and crypto exchanges.

Google accused of being heavy-handed over ban

Its decision followed similar bans on Facebook and Twitter, but some industry participants have told the Independent that the bans may not be chiefly motivated by public spiritedness.

In-house blockchain projects

Indeed, both Google and Facebook are known to be interested in the development of the blockchain technology that drives cryptocurrencies, if not in the establishment of their own digital financial offerings.

Phillip Nunn, chief executive of investment firm Blackmore Group, told the Indy: “Facebook and Google are under a lot of pressure to regulate what their users are reading, but they are still advertising gambling websites and other unethical practices.

“I suspect the ban has been implemented to fit in with potential plans to introduce their own cryptocurrency to the market in the near future and therefore removing other crypto adverts allows them to do it on their own terms.”

The paper reported last month that Google had approached the founder of ethereum for help in its own blockchain project.

A Google representative told Business Insider at the time: “Like many new technologies, we have individuals in various teams exploring potential uses of blockchain but it’s way too early for us to speculate about any possible uses or plans.”

Tackling fraud

While many might speculate about the inevitability of the entry into the crypto market by the tech giants, the Independent also notes the altruistic side of Google’s ban after the rise in scam adverts for ICOs designed to trick the vulnerable out of their cash.

The paper cites recent research into ICOs that found as many as 80% of such coin sales were fraudulent.

But Ed Cooper at banking start-up Revolut told the Indy that a blanket ban for crypto services means that legitimate businesses that provide valuable services “will be unfairly caught in the crossfire”.

“A more targeted approach would definitely be preferable: it would seem heavy handed for example to put a blanket ban on all ads for job postings, anti-virus software or charities just because ads for these products and service are also sometimes used as an entry point by scammers to target consumers,” he added.

Google as regulator

Gareth Malna, a fintech solicitor at the UK law firm Burges Salmon, was even more critical, suggesting that Google was overstepping its authority.

He told the Independent: “The decision by Google to act as a quasi-regulator in this context is a potentially troubling development given its vast commercial power.

“For Google to step in and block that market may sound like consumer protection, but is potentially overstepping its perceived role as gatekeeper to information.”

Post written by Chris Wheal
Chris Wheal is editor of OpenLedger's news and features service. An award-wining business journalists himself, he runs a team of freelance journalists from across the UK and north America.

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