Google is banning ads for medical masks from marketers trying to capitalize on the coronavirus scare

  • Google is cracking down on ads that feature medical masks that promote protection from COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.
  • Google’s existing policy blocked advertisers from promoting messages about coronavirus but did not include related products that marketers are peddling on e-commerce marketplaces.
  • Facebook has also removed ads related to coronavirus.
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As concerns about COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, continue to grow and spread, Google is cracking down on ads that promote medical masks.

On Monday, Business Insider flagged several mobile and search ads that promote medical face masks.

A Google spokesperson said its advertising policy prohibits marketers from promoting ads that explicitly mention coronavirus and that it’s blocked “hundreds of thousands of ads” over the past six weeks when coronavirus concerns began to grow. However, that policy does not include ads that don’t mention coronavirus but promote products meant to capitalize off it. For example, the ads promote N95 masks, which are used to filter out particles in the air during wildfires, but are being marketed as products to help with coronavirus.

Coronavirus n95 mask ad
An ad promoting a N95 mask.
Best Dang Stuff

Google said it would temporarily block ads over the next few days mentioning surgical face masks in all ads across mobile, search, and YouTube.

“We’re committed to protecting users and surfacing helpful, authoritative information as the coronavirus situation continues to evolve,” said a Google spokesperson. “Out of an abundance of caution, we have decided to temporarily ban all medical face mask ads. We’re actively monitoring the situation and will continue to take action as needed to protect users.”

Business Insider tried to contact advertisers behind some of these ads, including e-commerce marketplaces called Best Dang Stuff, Ziqi Goods, and Sea-North, multiple times on Monday. The advertisers did not respond to emails and calls for requests for comments.

Facebook has also banned coronavirus-related ads that it said tried to “create a sense of urgency” around the virus or protection claims.

Both Facebook and Google are dealing with a slew of misinformation spread across its platforms about coronavirus. The Google spokesperson said that the company is also working with publishers to give them more control over ad placements.

Google is preparing its employees and rolling out features for coronavirus

In addition to its ad policy, Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai published a blog on Friday saying tt hat Google has created a 24-hour response team that communicates with the World Health Organization to help make decisions about the tech giant’s offices.

He added that searches for the query “coronavirus cleaning advice” grew over 1,700% in one week in the US, leading the company to create a feature that alerts people with information from the World Health Organization on Google. Google is also donating ad space from YouTube to government and non-governmental nonprofits to promote information and resources for people about coronavirus.

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