Hugh Hefner

Google to stamp out cryptocurrency-related advertising, as Playboy embraces crypto

Image credit: Dreamstime

As Playboy becomes the latest company to embrace cryptocurrencies for payment, Google has announced a ban on cryptocurrency-related adverts amid a crackdown on unregulated financial products.

The ban will cover initial coin offerings (ICOs), cryptocurrency wallets, exchanges and trading advice and will be implemented from June 2018, according to Google’s annual “trust and safety” ads report. This will affect ads on all of Google’s advertising platforms, which place adverts on its own websites (such as YouTube), as well as third-party websites.

According to Google, it removed more than 3.2bn ads that violated its policies in 2017, nearly double the amount in 2016.

In a blog post, Scott Spencer, director of sustainable ads at Google, said: “[Google] updated several policies to address ads in unregulated or speculative financial products like binary options, cryptocurrency, foreign exchange markets and contracts for difference.”

While the ban is unlikely to defer cryptocurrency enthusiasts, it may prevent low-information audiences from tentatively investing in cryptocurrencies.

Google is following in the footsteps of Facebook, which banned cryptocurrency and ICO adverts in January, stating that many were being used to scam potential investors. 60 to 70 per cent of the online advertising market is controlled by Google and Facebook collectively. The two companies are in the process of removing misleading sponsored content, scams and propaganda from their platforms.

Cryptocurrencies experiences an enormous boost in value and public profile last year, with the value of Bitcoin – the first decentralised virtual currency – beginning at $900 and hitting a high of $20,000 near the end of the year. The rush to invest in cryptocurrencies was compared with tulip mania, which caused the price of tulip bulbs to explode to extremely high levels before collapsing in the Netherlands during the eighteenth century.

Cryptocurrencies remain unregulated around the world, and there are concerns over the legitimacy and security of cryptocurrency trade, particularly following the collapse of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, Mt Gox, and subsequent reports of mass theft of cryptocurrency. A recent report suggested that 59 per cent of ICOs – the cryptocurrency equivalent of an IPO – in the past year have failed or are at imminent risk of failure.

Earlier this week, the IMF called for a global regulatory crackdown on cryptocurrencies, particularly in order to prevent them being used to conduct illegal activity online.

“It would not be wise to dismiss crypto-assets; we must welcome their potential but also their risks,” wrote Christine Lagarde, MD of the IMF. The White House is also reportedly considering introducing cryptocurrency regulations.

Meanwhile, the sometimes-sleazy reputation of cryptocurrencies has been reinforced with the announcement that Playboy is to introduce a cryptocurrency wallet for use on its online platforms which supports a number of cryptocurrencies. Users will be able to pay to watch Playboy.TV content using cryptocurrencies from later this year.

“As the popularity of alternative payment methods continues to grow around the world, along with the reach [of] Playboy’s digital platforms, we felt it was important to give our 100 million monthly consumers increased payment flexibility,” said Reena Patel, COO at Playboy.

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