The U.S. tech giant Google has had an ongoing “Love-Hate-Relationship” with the cryptocurrency industry for the past year. It first banned crypto-related ads on Google Adwords back in March of 2018, citing a need to protect its customers from fraudulent offerings. It then reversed itself in late September by modifying the ban, effective in October, subject to a special certification process that it was putting in place. The word on the street today, however, is that several crypto startups are experiencing problems with searches.
At the time of its ban, Google executive Scott Spender said:
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.
Google is not alone in these “ban-on/ban-off” machinations. Facebook, Twitter, and Snap have also gone through similar policy changes. Facebook reversed its ban, as long as the crypto company was pre-approved. It retained its ban, however, on Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs). Google may have eased its position somewhat, but it still enforces a ban on ads for ICOs, wallets, and trading advice. Approved ads, however, may only run in the United States or Japan.
The Google ban becomes murkier when marketing personnel for crypto-related companies search for ads, as a way to produce potential leads for their services. A crypto startup in Serbia, Decenter by name, has noticed that the search term “Ethereum” no longer produces ads for further follow up. According to the firm:
We’ve been using Google Ads for the past 6 months to help us get more visibility for our smart contract auditing services and we’ve noticed a strange change in the last few days. It seems that Google completely blacklisted Ethereum as a keyword.
Calls to Google drew replies to review the crypto section of its policy statements: “Due to the complex evolving nature of regulations related to cryptocurrencies and related products and services, the company allows advertising mining-related services and cryptocurrencie exchanges. The latter is approved for promotion only in Japan and the U.S., however.” The policy is mute with regards to keywords in searches.
Decenter CEO Andrej Cvoro has noted that other firms are having difficulties, as well: “We are aware of at least five different competitors that used to have Google Ads shown for search phrases such as ‘Ethereum smart contract audit,’ all of which stopped at the same time.” He added that his conclusion was that Google had intentionally blacklisted “Ethereum” without explanation. He also mentioned that this issue is new, and that he had never encountered this issue when the full ban was in force.
Google staff is presently investigating Decenter’s complaint and has committed to an explanation within 48 hours. Google has released very little in the way of specific guidelines for its ban reversal, although it is expected that the media conglomerate would act cautiously in order to prevent a return of scam-related ads on its platform. This recent issue may be part of its learning curve, as it moves forward to allow new ads.
Oddly enough, one of the exceptions to these new rules is for ads related to crypto mining firms. In July of last year at a Blockchain Summit in Morocco, Sergey Brin, Google’s co-founder, let it be known that he is an Ethereum miner. Perhaps, his firm does not need to advertise on Google.