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Image credit: Reuters/Peter Power

Google freezes addiction center ads after word of sketchy referrals

Companies were making huge undisclosed commissions.
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Reuters/Peter Power

Google rarely stops advertising for an entire category, but it's making that exception to halt some serious abuses. The search firm has temporarily stopped running addiction center ads worldwide after a report revealed that sketchy referral services in the UK were earning huge, undisclosed referral fees (to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars) from addiction centers looking for new patients. The company had already stopped offering these ads in the US following concerns about the practice in September, but the complexity and "varying degrees of regulation" around the world had persuaded it to stop all activity while it searched for a "better way" to help addicts.

The move will phase out ads through a gradual region-by-region process. When they come back will depend on Google figuring out a safe way to provide ads without allowing companies that rely on giant referral commissions.

The incident illustrates the challenges Google faces as a de facto health resource for many internet users. While it wants to steer people toward help, it also has to deal with dodgy companies that prey on these same vulnerable people. The momentary pause may have only come after media stories drew attention to the problem, but it'll still be helpful if it leads to more trustworthy health ads.

Source: TechCrunch
Coverage: Sunday Times
In this article: addiction, ads, advertising, gear, google, internet, web
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