Three strikes and you’re out

On July 20, 2021, Google announced a new policy pilot – accounts showing repeated policy offenses will be shut down after three warnings.

Guy Varon

If we want to understand the implications of this policy and how it can be addressed, we need to start from the beginning.

So what are the policy violations that can lead to your account being disqualified from the digital game?

Google lists three categories of policy violations to which its disqualification policy will apply:

1. Encouraging dishonest behavior

This means advertising products or services that allow end customers to engage in dishonest or unethical behavior. These products and services include, for example:

  • sale of forged documents (passports, academic certificates, etc.)
  • hacking or wiretapping services
  • tracking others, for example GPS tracking devices or cell phone wiretaps and such.

2. Prohibited materials

  • All items in this non-exhaustive list of prohibited medications and supplements
  • Products containing ephedra
  • Products containing human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) marketed for weight loss or weight control, or marketed in combination with anabolic steroids
  • Herbal and nutritional supplements with active ingredients or dangerous ingredients
  • Products that claim to be as effective as prescription drugs or controlled substances
  • Government-approved products marketed in a manner that does not clearly imply that such products are safe or effective as prevention, cure, or treatment of a particular disease or illness
  • Products that were subject to any government or regulatory action or warning
  • Products with names that are confusingly similar to a drug, supplement, or controlled substance that is not approved
  • Hazardous materials or services

3. Dangerous products or services

As a general rule, Google prohibits promotion of any products or services that may cause damage, harm, or injury. Such products and services include:

  • Explosives, including fireworks, including sites that teach how to make explosives
  • Firearms, firearm parts, and related products
  • Cold weapons including knives and brass knuckles, including sites that teach how to prepare, or manufacture or print weapons of this type in 3D printers.
  • Drugs for entertainment or amusement purposes. This also includes tools for drug use (bangs, pipes, etc.)
  • Tobacco and smoking related products – cigarettes, tobacco, rolling papers, electronic cigarettes, etc.

How will the three-warning policy be carried out?

A first-time policy violation will only submit the advertiser to a warning without imposing any actual punitive measures. The so-called “Watch out. First warning.”.
The first warning will result in the first disabling of the account – for three days.

Second warning will be given, if an additional policy violation occurs within 90 days of the first warning. The second warning will result in an account suspension for one week.

Third warning shall be imposed, if a third policy violation occurs within 90 days of the second warning. This warning will permanently disable the account.

When Google gives a warning to a particular advertising account, the account’s managers receive an email notification about the warning. When an advertiser receives the first or second warning, they will be required to correct the policy violation within the account suspension period in order to go back on air once the suspension has been lifted. The advertiser is also obliged to submit a document to Google in which they acknowledge the policy violation and present the corrections made to the account.

Now What?

Firstly, it is important to acknowledge that the 3-warning and account disabling policies do not apply to all products and services but only to those listed above.
Secondly, it should also be kept in mind that warning history gets reset within 90 days. Anyone who has been warned and corrected their policy violating behavior will be cleared of their warning history after the 90-day period and will not bear ongoing liability for past violations.
Thirdly, any advertiser will be entitled to appeal against the warnings imposed on them by Google.

If you do advertise products or services on the above list, you should consider switching to alternative media channels and avoiding advertisement activities on Google as it may sooner or later lead to the blocking of your account.
If you do not advertise any of the products or services listed above, you have nothing to fear or prepare yourself for… at least for the time being.

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