(Photo : GettlyImages/ SOPA Images) Google UK ads

Google UK is rolling out a stricter ad screening rule in the United Kingdom after an increase in fraudulent adverts online during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Google has announced that starting on Aug. 30, it will only run ads for financial products and services from sources that have been cleared by the financial watchdog in the United Kingdom.

Google's Strict Ad Screening Process

The search engine giant will update its policy and start enforcing the rules officially on September 6. The advertisers will then have to prove that they are authorized by the UK watchdog UK Financial Conduct Authority or FCA, or they must qualify for its limited exemptions.

According to Google, the qualification requirement covers financial products and services beyond the regulator's scope.

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The decision to change the policy came after the search engine giant received criticism from numerous regulators, consumer groups, and law enforcement over its lack of action against fraudulent ads seen on the platform, according to TechCrunch.

According to UK Finance, cases of investment scams increased 32% in 2020. The cases involve criminals manipulating victims to transfer their money to a fake fund or pay for a fake investment. Overall lost recorded from the fake ads reached £135 million or $186 million.

Warnings from the FCA

The FCA has threatened to take legal action against Google and other social media platforms after it released 1,200 warnings about fraudulent ads.

The FCA told a parliamentary committee that it was able to begin taking legal action when Brexit started. Previously, the watchdog had been connected to the EU rules on financial ads, and those rules did not apply to online platforms.

Other social media platforms blamed Google's system for failing to remove the fraudulent ads. The UK consumer group Which? reported that 51% of the 1,870 search engine users it surveyed had no idea how to report fake ads that they found in search listings.

The lack of stricter rules from Google led some lawmakers to claim that the search engine is profiting from the fake ads.

According to TechCrunch, the MPs stated that Google benefits from online scammers who paid the search engine giant to host ads on its platforms.

Meanwhile, the FCA had also paid Google £600,000 or $830,000 in 2020 and 2021 to run anti-scam ads on all of its platforms, according to Engadget.

Google claims that it has improved its ad screening rules by using machine learning and human review. Google removed more than 3.1 billion adverts that violated its policies in 2020, according to the company's ad transparency report.

The search engine giant started verifying advertisers in January by requiring them to submit legal identification, proof of the country they operate, and business incorporation documents. In 2018, Google banned cryptocurrency ads.

Ronan Harris, vice president, and MD, Google UK, and Ireland, said in a blog post that the new update builds on significant work in partnership with the FCA over the last 18 months to help fix the issue.

The announcement regarding a stricter screening of adverts reflects the progress in delivering a better and safer experience for users, advertisers, and publishers.

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Written by Sophie Webster

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