Google recently shook the crypto market by banning Bitcoin and cryptocurrency adverts on its platforms in March, which is coming to effect beginning this month. Many industry experts are accusing the move to be poor, hasty and potentially even unethical.
The new policy is set to take effect this month and it comes on the heels of similar bans from Facebook and Twitter. Google announced the ban in a blog post in March, stating: “Ads for the following will no longer be allowed to serve […] Cryptocurrencies and related content (including but not limited to initial coin offerings, cryptocurrency exchanges, cryptocurrency wallets, and cryptocurrency trading advice.”
The simple assumption that these ads have been banned out of a desire to confront criminality doesn’t hold anymore since both Google and Facebook have recently revealed their interest in cryptocurrencies and their underlying blockchain technology.
“I understand that 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,” Phillip Nunn, CEO of Manchester-based investment firm Blackmore Group, told The Independent.
“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.”
Google allegedly approached the founder of Ethereum in May, in the hope of potentially securing his services. Google has been very tight-lipped about this entire affair. Their spokesperson declined to comment on either the ban or speculation surrounding its cryptocurrency and blockchain ambitions.
“Like many new technologies, we have individuals in various teams exploring the potential use of blockchain, but it’s too early for us to speculate about any possible uses or plans,” the spokesperson said.
This ban can also be seen as a positive step. As cryptocurrencies have become more popular, scammers are increasingly using Facebook and Google to promote shady cryptocurrencies and exchanges and defraud customers. A recent study of Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) found that as many as 80% of ICOs were fraudulent.
Shutting down these types of adverts is seen as a positive thing, as it tries to secure the space for the users. The nature of the action, however, seems like it is unfairly targeting this emerging industry.
“Unfortunately, the fact that this ban is a blanket ban will mean that legitimate cryptocurrency businesses which provide valuable services to users will be unfairly caught in the crossfire,” said Ed Cooper, head of mobile at digital banking startup Revolut.
“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.”
“The decision by Google to act as a quasi-regulator in this context is a potentially troubling development given its vast commercial power,” says Gareth Malna, a Fintech solicitor at the UK law firm Burges Salmon
“ 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,” Malna said.