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Google will pre-vet addiction treatment ads following scams

It halted addiction treatment advertising globally in January.
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NurPhoto via Getty Images

In September, following a Verge report detailing scams conducted through misleading drug and alcohol treatment advertising on Google, the company began pulling addiction treatment-related ads in the US. In January, Google did the same in the UK following a similar report from The Sunday Times and later, it extended the suspension of these sorts of ads globally as it worked out a strategy to ensure those advertising on its platform were legitimate. Now, Reuters reports, Google has established a way to vet addiction treatment facilities wanting to post ads.

In-person facilities, crisis hotlines and support groups will now have to be vetted by Oregon-based LegitScript before they can advertise on Google search pages or through the millions of apps and websites that use Google ads. LegitScript will assess addiction treatment providers based on 15 criteria, which include criminal background checks as well as license and insurance verifications. LegitScript told Reuters that these companies will also have to provide "written policies and procedures demonstrating a commitment to best practices, effective recovery and continuous improvement." The company's vetting service will cost $995 up front and $1,995 annually.

Last year's Verge report described how companies were taking advantage of Google's ad platform to scam those looking for treatment. Though some of those advertising were legitimate, others were collecting large commissions for referring customers to certain facilities, among other abuses.

Google will begin accepting ads from LegitScript-vetted US centers in July, but it doesn't yet have a system in place for non-US treatment facilities or sober-living houses.

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