Alphabet’s (NASDAQ: GOOGL) has taken the path of social media giant Facebook (NASDAQ: FB), saying that it is implementing a ban of online advertising promoting cryptocurrencies and ICO’s, an acronym for initial coin offerings, a capital raise for a new cryptocurrency akin to an initial public offering for a company. The search and ad behemoth says the block officially starts in June.
Google made the announcement as part of a policy update, which includes a crackdown on other financial products often considered risky, such as financial spread betting, binary options, rolling spot forex and contracts for difference. The ban on cryptocurrencies also covers “related content,” which broadly envelopes things like ICOs, cryptocurrency wallets, crypto exchanges and advice.
The decision means ads for cryptocurrencies, the most famous of which is Bitcoin, on Google-owned sites, most notably You Tube, or any of the third-party sites where Google sells advertising space, will be forbidden. Searches through Google for things like “Bitcoin” that now will deliver ads to buy the digital currency, will likely begin fading away and then disappear come June.
Bitcoin, an unregulated cryptocurrency built upon the decentralized ledger called blockchain, has earned the ire of governments and regulatory bodies globally for a number of reasons, including volatility and lack of oversight. China, home to the world’s biggest population of Bitcoin miners (organizations that use stacks of computers to earn Bitcoin by solving complex equations to add data to the blockchain), has famously expressed their displeasure with the cryptocurrency because of pollution from massive energy consumption by the miners and potential corruption (fraud, money laundering, Ponzi schemes, etc.), as the country looks to reign-in or shutdown cryptocurrency activity. India and South Korea are amongst other countries aiming to incorporate new laws negative to the industry, including outright bans.
Google’s move follows the footsteps of Facebook, who in January said it was banning all ads for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies on its platforms against the backdrop of a spike in advertising activity coinciding with a big run up in the price of cryptocurrencies. The concern is that the ads are being used for misleading and deceptive promotional activities to bilk money out of investors. During 2017, the price of Bitcoin shot ahead from under $1,000 in January to more than $19,000 in December before falling off a precipice to back under $7,000 last month as regulatory voices grew louder criticizing the space.
As of Wednesday morning, Bitcoin is trading in the area of $8,635, according to Coinbase. Ethereum, another popular cryptocurrency (officially the token is “Ether” with Ethereum being the blockchain and company), is trading right about $650 after nearly the $1,000 mark in February.
With Google and Facebook controlling the lion’s share of online ad revenue, the industry is going to continue to face headwinds until more regulations are put into place. Twitter (NASDAQ: TWTR) hasn’t initiated a ban, but says it is working to control spam related to cryptocurrencies.