Early this year, some Google users looking for information regarding drug addiction in the United Kingdom might have experienced seeing misleading advertisements that would redirect them to pricey luxury rehab center and facilities in the area. However, after the release of a report that Google apparently has been making millions of dollars from these ads, the company has announced that it is banning this category in the UK.
A spokesperson for Google explains that substance abuse is a growing problem all over the world, and this has led to unethical practices that they need to understand more. The spokesperson explains that such advertisements from expensive luxury rehab center and the likes have been completely banned within the ad categories in the United States, and they are extending this ban to the United Kingdom while they consult experts on how to better connect individuals with the rehabilitation help that they need.
The issue with these advertisements is that instead of finding the information that they need, vulnerable individuals may be redirected to pages offering rehabilitation and treatment that cost an arm and a leg. There is no real problem if this is exactly what they are looking for, but if not, there is misinformation going on. The fact that some parties profit from it would seem that they are earning money from these people who are just trying to get help and information—and for many, this is not a good way for a company to be earning.
Referrals and Commissions
According to a study conducted by the Times, some private clinics give commission to third-party referrers. This commission can go up to tens of thousands of dollars for every referral. To connect patients to these clinics, some companies claimed to have paid around $270 for every click on their ad that promises free helpline. This would also get them help from a representative from Google on how to maintain their position on the search results on the search engine.
Beyond the Search for Rehabs
While third party referrals earn from this, Google is also reported to have been profiting from the scheme. This wasn’t limited to searches regarding rehabs as well. In May 2017, the Broadband for America (BFA) had advertisements supporting net neutrality, which redirected users to a page that was against it. However, the misinformation was attributed to technical glitches, and no one was held responsible for it, and possibly profiting off it.