Virus Conspiracies Banned

Separating fact from fiction: online giants slowly improving their policing of blatant misinformation.

Google is ramping up its fight against coronavirus related misinformation by banning ads that contradict "authoritative scientific consensus” about the pandemic. That means websites and apps can no longer make money from running advertisements promoting debunked conspiracy theories about COVID-19. Those include claims that the virus was created in a Chinese lab, that the pandemic is a hoax and that Bill Gates was behind it.

According to Bloomberg, Google will start enforcing the new rule next month. And in addition to blocking advertisers from creating new ads, it will use human and machine reviewers to find and take action against publishers and advertisers who break the rule. It will also ban those who repeatedly violate its new policy from using its ad platform.

The company already has a policy against harmful health claims online, and it has removed more than 200 million ads that were trying to take advantage of the mayhem caused by the pandemic.

As a Google spokesperson explained, the new rule expands the company’s policy against harmful health claims, such as miracle health cures and things that promote anti-vaccination ideas, on the internet:

“We are putting additional safeguards in place by expanding our harmful health claims policies for both publishers and advertisers to include dangerous content about a health crisis that contradicts scientific consensus.”

Google announced in April that it’s investing $6.5 million to fight coronavirus-related misinformation in an effort to prevent false claims from spreading further.

Google-owned YouTube has already prohibited monetization of medical misinformation and conspiracy theories surrounding Covid-19.

Other platforms have also taken steps to combat false COVID-19 claims: Apple is rejecting all coronavirus-related mobile apps that aren't from official health organizations, Twitter is banning tweets perpetuating claims of fake cures, while Facebook is now debunking common myths about the pandemic in its COVID-19 information center.