Google announced that it is strengthening its advertising policy to address clickbait-related tactics.  Under the new policy, Google will prohibit "ads that use tragedies, scandals and shame to pressure people to click immediately, when the claim is either false or lacks urgency." 

Noting that it took down more than 51 million sensationalist ads in 2019, Google said that it has seen an increase in "bad actors using pressure tactics, celebrity images, cliffhanger language and graphic content to gain more clicks."  In addition, Google said, "We are committed to creating a high-quality experience for our users, where the promotion is clear from the ad itself."  

Specifically, under the new policy, Google will prohibit, "Ads that use clickbait tactics or sensationalist text or imagery to drive traffic."  This includes, for example: 

  • Ads that claim to reveal secrets, scandals or other sensationalist information about the product or service being advertised; 
  • Ads which use clickbait messaging such as ‘‘Click here to find out,” “You won’t believe what happened,” and similar phrases which encourage the user to click on the Ad in order to understand the full context of the ad; 
  • Ads which use clearly altered zoomed in body parts, mugshots, or real life accident or disaster photos to promote a product or a service; and 
  • Ads which use “before and after” images to promote significant alterations to the human body. 

The new policy will also prohibit, "Ads that use negative life events such as death, accidents, illness, arrests or bankruptcy to induce fear, guilt or other strong negative emotions to pressure the viewer to take immediate action."  This includes, for example, ads that pressure the user to purchase a product and ads which use depictions of severe distress, pain, fear, or shock to promote a product or service.