Future Tense

Google Bans Cryptocurrency Ads

Google's subsidiary, YouTube, will also be prohibiting cryptocurrency ads.
Google’s subsidiary, YouTube, will also be prohibiting cryptocurrency ads. JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images

Google announced on Wednesday that it will be banning ads for “cryptocurrencies and related content” beginning in June, including those promoting exchanges, initial coin offerings (ICO), wallets, and trading advice. The policy will apply to its search results, display network on third-party sites, and YouTube. The move comes on the heels of Facebook’s decision in January to also ban all crypto-related advertising. Bitcoin’s price fell by 6 percent on Wednesday morning in the aftermath of the news.

Scott Spencer, Google’s director of sustainable ads, told CNBC, “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.” In a blog post also published on Wednesday, Spencer wrote that the company removed more that 3.2 billion ads that violated its policies last year.

The cryptocurrency sector is relatively new, extremely complex, and faces little regulation, which makes it a perfect breeding ground for scams. Regulators like the SEC have of late been cracking down on a variety of cryptocurrency enterprises, such as ICOs for businesses that don’t exist, fake trading advisors who simply abscond with costumers’ money, and exchanges that are essentially Ponzi schemes. However, as is the case with Facebook’s ban, even ads for legitimate cryptocurrency companies won’t be allowed in Google search results or its third-party ad carriers.

With both Facebook and Google now banning cryptocurrency ads, two of the most powerful forces in the digital ads market, there will be scant opportunities for bitcoin entrepreneurs to market their services online. CNBC reported last year that Google and Facebook account for an estimated 73 percent of all digital advertising in the U.S.

Cryptocurrency now joins a bevy of other items that ads on Google are prohibited from promoting, such as counterfeit goods, recreational drugs, weapons and ammunition, and tobacco products. Ads that lead to sites for hate groups, violent crime, or endangered species trafficking are also banned.