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Technology

Google ads appear on porn, sanctioned foreign sites: Report

November 29, 2023 09:50 PM

SAN FRANCISCO: Google's ad exchange has been serving advertising on hundreds of suspicious websites that are designated on the US Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctions list, a new report has revealed.

According to the digital ads analysis group Adalytics, Google had been found to have run ads on websites located in the sanctioned countries of Iran and Russia.

Additionally, the tech giant displayed search ads not only on its own platform but also on third-party websites within the "Google Search Partner network", including YouTube.

The report further found that the company was showing ads on websites alongside explicit and pirated content and that ads, for instance, for the US Secret Service, FBI, and the US Treasury, were found on a Russian and an Iranian-sanctioned website.

"These included websites such as Breitbart.com, sites containing pirated content, hardcore pornographic sites, and hundreds of putative Iranian websites, which may potentially be under US Treasury Office of Foreign Assets (OFAC) sanctions, " the report said.

Google's vice president of global ads, Dan Taylor, said they will ensure they follow US sanctions and their own policies, but alluded to Adalytics' previous reports as having inaccuracies.

The report included various screenshots of advertisements close to problematic content, violating Google’s policies.

Apple, Amazon, BMW, Goldman Sachs, KPMG, Walmart, and Meta were among the brands affected, while several alcohol brands had mismatched advertising and were placed on children's websites.

According to the report, not just brands but even politicians, including US Senators Ted Cruz and Amy Klobuchar, were located on the violating websites.

"It's the first time in history, we face the unsettling reality of AI committing crimes. Google's advertising algorithms demand scrutiny. The EU Commission must wield its audit powers to demand transparency and accountability about […] the PMax and other ad bidding algorithms, " a member of the European Parliament (MEP) Paul Tang said.

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