Google has just announced that it will be banning payday loans from its ads systems. No doubt a response to much of the public backlash spawned by increased media exposure, this move situates Google as a more ethically involved corporate entity — one that’s not afraid to censor potential sponsors and leave ill-gained loot behind. The search engine and app giant posted this on the decision hours ago:
When ads are good, they connect people to interesting, useful brands, businesses and products. Unfortunately, not all ads are–some are for fake or harmful products, or seek to mislead users about the businesses they represent. We have an extensive set of policies to keep bad ads out of our systems – in fact in 2015 alone, we disabled more than 780 million ads for reasons ranging from counterfeiting to phishing. Ads for financial services are a particular area of vigilance given how core they are to people’s livelihood and well being.
In that vein, today we’re sharing an update that will go into effect on July 13, 2016: we’re banning ads for payday loans and some related products from our ads systems. We will no longer allow ads for loans where repayment is due within 60 days of the date of issue. In the U.S., we are also banning ads for loans with an APR of 36% or higher. When reviewing our policies, research has shown that these loans can result in unaffordable payment and high default rates for users so we will be updating our policies globally to reflect that.
In the demagoguery of the recent election campaigns, many analogies have been made about baking cakes and the prerogative of private enterprise. But, as Google notes, this decision isn’t based upon mere subjectivity as much as it is on hard facts about the havoc predatory lending can wreak on the poor.
This, however, begs the question: Has Google tripped on a slippery slope? Are there numerous other ad sources that might be just as dubious as payday loan practices?
Of course, as Google says, payday loans aren’t the only kind on their blacklist. But we’ve all seen ads crop up in our search that could fall under the category of unethical. What do you think? What kinds of ads should Google ban next?