Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG, NASDAQ:GOOGL) announced today that it will be banning all cryptocurrency-related advertising. This includes but is not limited to bitcoin, initial coin offerings (ICOs), cryptocurrency exchanges, cryptocurrency wallets and cryptocurrency trading advice.
Starting June 2018, Google will no longer allow such ads to be served through any of its ad products, which not only cover its own sites (including YouTube.com) but also any site that uses Google AdWords.
Currently, Google and Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) together account for 73% of all digital advertising and 83% of all digital-advertising growth. Facebook announced back in January that it would ban cryptocurrency-related advertisements.
This is bad for cryptos, with bitcoin dropping 9% (or $814) on the news, and Bitcoin Cash and Ethereum giving back similar amounts.
Why Cryptocurrency Needs Google
Bitcoin, other cryptocurrencies and ICOs only have as much value as those paying for them agree they have. While this may sound like basic supply and demand (or the stock market in general), there’s one key difference … If you’re selling a product or run a public company, that product and that company must exist. And there are many regulations in place to make sure you’re not misleading buyers or investors.
You may say any other fiat currency is the same as crypto, but it’s not. Fiat currencies are backed by governments, subject to heavy regulation and even kept in check by their valuation compared to other fiat currencies.
Cryptocurrencies only have as much value as cryptocurrency investors agree on, and unless these same investors swap an increasing number of cryptos and ICOs back and forth forever, their survival depends on more people finding out about them and investing.
Now that 73% of digital advertising (and 83% of future advertising) is off the table, it will be even harder for new crypto-based products to reach an audience and establish legitimacy.
Is Banning Cryptocurrency Advertising Bad for Google?
It’s not hard to see where Google (and Facebook) are coming from. Both companies have come under fire for the proliferation of fake news, scams and propaganda across their services.
And, like it or not, cryptocurrencies and their investors have been major targets for scams. (Yes, all those links are to different scams.) Bitcoin.com recently reported that $9 million is being lost to cryptocurrency scams a day.
So when Google and Facebook are trying to be more accountable for what they’re presenting to users, the question isn’t how can they block crypto ads, it’s how can they allow them to continue unchecked?
The internet is still in its infancy. Many users are still learning what to trust and what not to trust. Whether that’s election news or a brand new coin that’s definitely going to skyrocket, a company like Google that not only wants to grow but wants to lead the world in new technology can’t be seen as supporting something they know cannot be trusted.
When Facebook made its announcement, it cited “Use your retirement funds to buy Bitcoin!” as an example of the type of ad FB would no longer allow. Someone who doesn’t know much about investing, or who’s in a tight spot financially, may see that and lose their life savings.
You can say that falling for scams or making poor decisions like that are the person’s own fault, but you can still agree that Google or Facebook might suffer for providing the platform for it. Consider the opposite scenario. A “savvy investor” sees an ad like that from Google or Facebook — suddenly they trust all Google and Facebook ads less.
And Alphabet Inc makes 84% of its revenue from advertising.
Google needs to do everything possible to make sure people buy and click on its ads. And if that means banning crypto-ads, it’s not much of a loss.
So this is bad for bitcoin, but is it bad for Google?
Short answer: No.
Long answer: Still no.
If you believe that bitcoin is the future, it can’t be if more people can’t find out about it. If you believe that blockchain is the future, blockchain already exists and the survival of cryptocurrencies and ICOs won’t be what makes or breaks the technology.
As of this writing, Regina Borsellino held no positions in the aforementioned securities.