Google plans to crack down on ads for bogus medical treatments, as the company has observed a rise in predatory scams that target desperate patients.
The company announced on Friday a new policy that prohibits promotions “for unproven or experimental medical techniques” and therapies that have “insufficient formal clinical testing to justify widespread clinical use—giving examples such as gene therapy, cellular therapy, and most stem cell therapy.
“Often times, these treatments can lead to dangerous health outcomes and we feel they have no place on our platforms,” the announcement reads.
Google said it is taking action now because it has seen an increase in “bad actors attempting to take advantage of individuals by offering untested, deceptive treatments.”
The Washington Post first reported the new rule, adding that the policy is being introduced at a time when stem cell clinics are becoming a “direct-to-consumer industry,” with some such clinics claiming their therapies can treat degenerative lung diseases, multiple sclerosis, ALS, and macular degeneration.
According to the Post, the ban will affect all of Google’s ad services, which includes YouTube ads and ads that the company serves to third-party sites.
In June, a federal judge ruled that the Food and Drug Administration could regulate a stem-cell treatment that has become popular within this industry—a victory in a lawsuit against a Florida company, US Stem Cell, which has reportedly blinded at least four patients after injecting its “treatment” into their eyes. The decision was indicative of a growing federal effort to curtail the booming snake-oil business.
According to Google’s announcement, the platform will still allow companies to promote research and advertise clinical trials, explaining that it believes such work can lead to medical advancements.
Still, Google has a long way to go to curb its spread of misleading medical advice. For instance, the announcement comes on the same day as a Vice report that Google Maps still directs people seeking abortions to pro-life clinics.