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Google Pulls Ads For Addiction Treatment Centers After Report On Deceptive Practices

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The opioid crisis is still ongoing in the United States, meaning hundreds have been turning to Google to search for places to find help, only to run into frustrating issues. As a result of the rise in addiction rates, an entire industry has sprung up online revolving around addiction treatment centers and therapies, sometimes using shady methods to entice customers.

Now, Google has decided to put a stop on its rehab advertising efforts worldwide, The Verge reports. Last year, a report examined companies that used the search engine to take advantage of business listings to mislead addicts who are looking for help. Following the news, the tech giant pulled ads against several rehab-related search terms.

In a statement to Tech Crunch, Google said,

Substance abuse is a growing crisis and even as we’ve helped healthcare providers connect with people who need help, unfortunately there’s also been a rise in deceptive practices from bad actors taking advantage of those in need.

Google profited from similar lead generation corporations in the United Kingdom, according to London’s Sunday Times, as it received “as much as £200 each time someone accesses their website with a single click on the advertised link at the top of a Google search page.” Google also pulled UK ads following the report, saying that it was consulting with experts.

Google has now chosen to extend the suspension further, putting a stop to ads globally. The company said, “This is a complex issue with varying degrees of regulation in different countries, which is why we’ve decided to suspend ads in the entire addiction treatment center category globally while we consult with experts to find a better way to connect people with the treatment they need.”

The ads will not be phased out all at once, but will take time as the process of pulling ads works through various languages and regions. They’ll be back once Google finds ways to serve them without the risk of enabling deception and systematic abuse.


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