Google bans cryptocurrency advertising, bitcoin price slumps

LONDON, March 14 (Reuters) - Alphabet Inc's Google said on Wednesday it was banning advertisements for cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings, the latest internet company to clamp down on the sector amid growing concerns about scams.

Google's action, which takes effect in June and follows a similar move by Facebook earlier this year, sent the price of the best-known cryptocurrency, bitcoin, down more than 10 percent to its lowest in a month.

Interest in cryptocurrencies has surged in the last year as their prices rocketed.

That growth has spawned online advertising used by hundreds of companies trying to raise funds by launching new coins or encouraging people to trade the virtual currencies.

"Improving the ads experience across the web, whether that's removing harmful ads or intrusive ads, will continue to be a top priority for us," said Scott Spencer, director of sustainable ads at Google, on the company's official blog, The Keyword.

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A look inside the world of cryptocurrency
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A look inside the world of cryptocurrency
Workers prepare a new installation of miners, at the cryptocurrency farming operation, Bitfarms, in Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec, Canada, February 2, 2018. Picture taken February 2, 2018. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
PARIS, FRANCE - FEBRUARY 16: In this photo illustration, a visual representation of digital cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin, Ripple, Ethernum, Dash, Monero and Litecoin is displayed on February 16, 2018 in Paris, France. Digital cryptocurrencies have seen unprecedented growth in 2017, despite remaining extremely volatile. (Photo Illustration by Chesnot/Getty Images)
A worker checks the fans on miners, at the cryptocurrency farming operation, Bitfarms, in Farnham, Quebec, Canada, February 2, 2018. Picture taken February 2, 2018. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
Representation of the Ripple virtual currency is seen in this illustration picture, February 13, 2018. Picture is taken February 13. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration
A customer of an Australian bank withdraws money from an Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) next to a Bitcoin ATM at a shopping mall in central Sydney, Australia, October 1, 2015. Australian businesses are turning their backs on bitcoin, as signs grow that the cryptocurrency's mainstream appeal is fading. Concerns about bitcoin's potential crime links mean many businesses have stopped accepting it, a trend accelerated by Australian banks' move last month to close the accounts of 13 of the country's 17 bitcoin exchanges.Picture taken October 1, 2015. REUTERS/David Gray
A worker checks the fan on a miner, at the cryptocurrency farming operation, Bitfarms, in Farnham, Quebec, Canada, February 2, 2018. Picture taken February 2, 2018. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
A man walks past an electric board showing exchange rates of various cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin (top L) at a cryptocurrencies exchange in Seoul, South Korea December 13, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
A monitor shows various cryptocurrencies' exchange rates against Japanese Yen including NEM coin (middle in the top) at 'nem bar', where customers can pay with NEM coins, in Tokyo, Japan January 29, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
A miner waits to have its fan replaced, at the cryptocurrency farming operation, Bitfarms, in Farnham, Quebec, Canada, February 2, 2018. Picture taken February 2, 2018. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
PARIS, FRANCE - FEBRUARY 16: In this photo illustration, the icon of the the Coincheck cryptocurrency exchange application is seen on the screen of an iPhone on February 16, 2018 in Paris, France. Victims of one of the world's largest cryptocurrency hacks are suing Coincheck, the Japanese company whose network was breached in a theft worth more than dollars 650 millions. Coincheck is a bitcoin wallet and exchange service headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, founded by Koichiro Wada and Yusuke Otsuka. It operates exchanges between bitcoin/ether and fiat currencies in Japan, and bitcoin transactions and storage in some countries worldwide. (Photo Illustration by Chesnot/Getty Images)
Representation of the Ripple virtual currency is seen in this illustration picture, February 13, 2018. Picture is taken February 13. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration
A view of Romania's first bitcoin ATM is seen in downtown Bucharest June 27, 2014. In a well-lit office with red window frames in downtown Bucharest, Romania's first bitcoin ATM attracts many who until it opened in May had to buy or sell the digital currency face-to-face or through wire transfers. The interest in bitcoin in Romania stands out in a region where national currencies are widely seen as poor substitutes for the euro. Tech-savvy and still deeply distrustful of officialdom 25 years after the end of communism, many Romanians are unfazed by warnings about the cryptocurrency. Picture taken June 27, 2014. To match Feature ROMANIA-BITCOIN/ REUTERS/Bogdan Cristel (ROMANIA - Tags: BUSINESS SOCIETY SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY)
Representations of the Ripple, Bitcoin, Etherum and Litecoin virtual currencies are seen on a PC motherboard in this illustration picture, February 13, 2018. Picture is taken February 13, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration
Eoh Kyung-hoon, leader of a club studying cryptocurrencies, checks a chart after a meeting at a university in Seoul, South Korea, December 20, 2017. Picture taken December 20, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
Eoh Kyung-hoon, leader of a club studying cryptocurrencies, attends a meeting at a university in Seoul, South Korea, December 20, 2017. Picture taken December 20, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
A Bitcoin (virtual currency) paper wallet with QR codes and a coin are seen in an illustration picture taken at La Maison du Bitcoin in Paris, France, May 27, 2015. British authorities have come out in support of digital currencies in the name of promoting financial innovation, while proposing that regulations should be drawn up to prevent their use in crime. But it is technophiles who are leading the drive to make London a real-world hub for trade in web-based "cryptocurrencies", of which bitcoin is the original and still most popular. Picture taken May 27, 2015. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
Publican Grant Fairweather places a beer on the bar next to a Bitcoin sign as he serves a customer in Sydney, Australia, September 29, 2015. Australian businesses are turning their backs on bitcoin, as signs grow that the cryptocurrency's mainstream appeal is fading. Concerns about bitcoin's potential crime links mean many businesses have stopped accepting it, a trend accelerated by Australian banks' move last month to close the accounts of 13 of the country's 17 bitcoin exchanges. Picture taken September 29, 2015. REUTERS/David Gray
A Bitcoin (virtual currency) hardware wallet and a coin are seen in an illustration picture taken at La Maison du Bitcoin in Paris, France, May 27, 2015. British authorities have come out in support of digital currencies in the name of promoting financial innovation, while proposing that regulations should be drawn up to prevent their use in crime. But it is technophiles who are leading the drive to make London a real-world hub for trade in web-based "cryptocurrencies", of which bitcoin is the original and still most popular. Picture taken May 27, 2015. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
George Rotariu uses Romania's first bitcoin ATM in downtown Bucharest June 27, 2014. In a well-lit office with red window frames in downtown Bucharest, Romania's first bitcoin ATM attracts many who until it opened in May had to buy or sell the digital currency face-to-face or through wire transfers. The interest in bitcoin in Romania stands out in a region where national currencies are widely seen as poor substitutes for the euro. Tech-savvy and still deeply distrustful of officialdom 25 years after the end of communism, many Romanians are unfazed by warnings about the cryptocurrency. Picture taken June 27, 2014. To match Feature ROMANIA-BITCOIN/ REUTERS/Bogdan Cristel (ROMANIA - Tags: BUSINESS SOCIETY SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY)
PARIS, FRANCE - FEBRUARY 16: In this photo illustration, a visual representation of the digital Cryptocurrency Monero is displayed on February 16, 2018 in Paris, France. Monero is an electronic currency that has experienced an incredible surge in 2017. Monero is one of the first 15 cryptocurrencies on the market. The success of Monero is explained by its popularity in 2016 with users of the site AlphaBay, an illegal darknet platform on which were selling drugs and weapons. Cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple, Dash, Monero and Litetcoin have seen unprecedented growth in 2017, despite remaining extremely volatile. (Photo Illustration by Chesnot/Getty Images)
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Under the new policy, Google said it would ban ads for cryptocurrencies and related content such as initial coin offerings, crypto exchanges and cryptocurrency wallets and advertisements providing trading advice.

In January, Facebook Inc said it would ban ads promoting financial products and services tied to cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings because of the risks to users.

Regulators across the globe have warned consumers about the risks of investing in crypto markets, but internet companies are introducing outright bans because they worry there is not currently sufficient protection for consumers.

"If an entity such as Google does not feel comfortable with exposure to these cryptocurrencies then it is right that they don't promote it," said Chris Keshian, chief executive of $APEX Token Fund, which invests in cryptocurrency fund managers.

The CEO of the UK arm of Coinbase, one of the largest bitcoin exchanges, said Google's decision was a positive development that would not dampen demand, although he viewed the ban as too widespread.

"The Google ban is perhaps too broad as it is. It should be narrowed down" to companies that pitch cryptocurrencies as investments promising a return, Zeeshan Feroz told Reuters.

The price of bitcoin traded on the Luxembourg-based Bitstamp exchange fell almost 10 percent to $8,201, the lowest since Feb. 12. It was last down 8.7 percent at $8,337.51

Other large cryptocurrencies also fell on Wednesday.

Bitcoin has lost about 40 percent of its value in 2018 after rocketing more than 1,300 percent last year.

Google also said on Wednesday it would stop ads for financial products like binary options and synonymous products, contracts for difference, rolling spot forex and financial spread betting.

Companies wanting to promote those products would need to be registered with the relevant financial regulators before they could advertise again.

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Google CEO Sundar Pichai
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Google CEO Sundar Pichai
Google Inc. CEO Sundar Pichai attends a session of the fourth World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, China, December 3, 2017. REUTERS/Aly Song
Google's CEO Sundar Pichai speaks on stage during a conference tagged 'Google for Nigeria' in Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos, July 27, 2017. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye
Google Inc CEO Sundar Pichai speaks during a launch event in San Francisco, California, U.S. October 4, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks on stage during the annual Google I/O developers conference in San Jose, California, U.S., May 17, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks on stage during the annual Google I/O developers conference in San Jose, California, U.S., May 17, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
Google CEO Sundar Pichai delivers his keynote address during the Google I/O 2016 developers conference in Mountain View, California, U.S. May 18, 2016. REUTERS/Stephen Lam TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Sundar Pichai, Senior Vice President for Products, delivers his keynote address during the Google I/O developers conference in San Francisco, California May 28, 2015. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith
Sundar Pichai, Google's senior vice president of products, speaks during a presentation at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona March 2, 2015. Ninety thousand executives, marketers and reporters gather in Barcelona this week for the telecom operators Mobile World Congress, the largest annual trade show for the global wireless industry. REUTERS/Albert Gea (SPAIN - Tags: BUSINESS SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY BUSINESS TELECOMS)
Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Google Chrome, speaks during Google I/O Conference at Moscone Center in San Francisco, California June 28, 2012. REUTERS/Stephen Lam (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY)
Sundar Pichai, Google's senior vice president of Android, Chrome and Apps, speaks about wearables during his keynote address at the Google I/O developers conference in San Francisco June 25, 2014. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Chrome at Google, discusses recent advancements and changes to Chrome during the keynote address at the Google I/O Developers Conference in the Moscone Center in San Francisco, California, May 11, 2011. REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach (UNITED STATES - Tags: SCI TECH BUSINESS)
WUZHEN, CHINA - DECEMBER 03: Sundar Pichai, chief executive officer of Google Inc., speaks during the 4th World Internet Conference on December 3, 2017 in Wuzhen, China. The 4th World Internet Conference - Wuzhen Summit themed with 'Developing digital economy for openness and shared benefits -- building a community of common future in cyberspace.' is held from Dec 3 to 5 in Wuzhen of Zhejiang. (Photo by Du Yang/China News Service/VCG via Getty Images)
WUZHEN, CHINA - DECEMBER 03: Google CEO Sundar Pichai attends the opening ceremony of the 4th World Internet Conference on December 3, 2017 in Wuzhen, Zhejiang Province of China. The 4th World Internet Conference - Wuzhen Summit themed with 'Developing digital economy for openness and shared benefits -- building a community of common future in cyberspace.' is held from Dec 3 to 5 in Wuzhen of Zhejiang. (Photo by VCG via Getty Images)
Sundar Pichai, chief executive officer of Google Inc., speaks during the Google I/O Annual Developers Conference in Mountain View, California, U.S., on Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Google's artificial intelligence-based voice Assistant is on more than 100 million devices now, and the company is leveraging a longtime competitor to expand the technology to even more people.�Photographer: Michael Short/Bloomberg via Getty Images
MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA - MAY 17: Google CEO Sundar Pichai delivers the keynote address at the Google I/O 2017 Conference at Shoreline Amphitheater on May 17, 2017 in Mountain View, California. The three-day conference will highlight innovations including Google Assistant. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA JANUARY 4: Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks during Digital Unlocked Google event at Taj palace on January 4, 2017 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Pradeep Gaur/Mint via Getty Images)
KHARAGPUR, INDIA - JANUARY 5: Google CEO Sundar Pichai interacts with students at IIT Kharagpur campus on January 5, 2017 in Kharagpur, India. For Pichai, it was an emotional homecoming, his first visit to his alma mater since he graduated from IIT Kharagpur in 1993. (Photo by Samir Jana/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA JANUARY 4: Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks during Digital Unlocked Google event at Taj palace on January 4, 2017 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Pradeep Gaur/Mint via Getty Images)
KHARAGPUR, INDIA - JANUARY 5: Google CEO Sundar Pichai interacts with students at IIT Kharagpur campus on January 5, 2017 in Kharagpur, India. For Pichai, it was an emotional homecoming, his first visit to his alma mater since he graduated from IIT Kharagpur in 1993. (Photo by Samir Jana/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
Sundar Pichai, chief executive officer of Google Inc., speaks during the company's Cloud Next '17 event in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Wednesday, March 8, 2017. The Cloud Next conference brings together industry experts to discuss the future of cloud computing. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Google Inc CEO, Sundar Pichai (C) talks to a group of woman known as 'Internet Sathis' who learn mobile internet from Google and then teach other villagers, in Gokulpur village some 140 kms west of Kolkata on January 5, 2017. / AFP / Chandan KHANNA (Photo credit should read CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP/Getty Images)
CEO of Google Inc. Sundar Pichai looks on as he attends a meeting about partnering with small business in New Delhi on January 4, 2017. / AFP / Dominique Faget (Photo credit should read DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
Google Inc. CEO Sundar Pichai gestures as he addresses students during a forum at The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur in Kharagpur, some 120kms west of Kolkata on January 5, 2017. / AFP / Chandan KHANNA (Photo credit should read CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP/Getty Images)
Sundar Pichai, chief executive officer of Google Inc., speaks during a news conference in New Delhi, India, on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017. Google expects to have a dedicated cloud region for India later this year, Pichai said. Photographer: Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Google Inc CEO, Sundar Pichai (C) talks to a group of woman known as 'Internet Sathis' who learn mobile internet from Google and then teach other villagers, in Gokulpur village some 140 kms west of Kolkata on January 5, 2017. / AFP / Chandan KHANNA (Photo credit should read CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP/Getty Images)
Google CEO Sundar Pichai during a visit to Argyle Primary School, in London, alongside Minister for Digital Policy Matt Hancock, as Google announced plans to bring VR technology to one million schoolchildren in the UK as part of a new learning initiative. (Photo by Dominic Lipinski/PA Images via Getty Images)
Sundar Pichai, chief executive officer of Google Inc., speaks during an event at Google's Kings Cross office in London, U.K., on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016. After being criticized for not paying its fair share of British tax, Alphabet Inc.s Google unit is trying to show its a good corporate citizen by offering five hours of free digital skills training to all U.K. residents. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Sundar Pichai, chief executive officer of Google Inc., speaks during an event at Google's Kings Cross office in London, U.K., on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016. After being criticized for not paying its fair share of British tax, Alphabet Inc.s Google unit is trying to show its a good corporate citizen by offering five hours of free digital skills training to all U.K. residents. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Sundar Pichai, chief executive officer of Google Inc., pauses during an event at Google's Kings Cross office in London, U.K., on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016. After being criticized for not paying its fair share of British tax, Alphabet Inc.s Google unit is trying to show its a good corporate citizen by offering five hours of free digital skills training to all U.K. residents. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Sundar Pichai, chief executive officer of Google Inc., listens to a speaker during an event at Google's Kings Cross office in London, U.K., on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016. After being criticized for not paying its fair share of British tax, Alphabet Inc.s Google unit is trying to show its a good corporate citizen by offering five hours of free digital skills training to all U.K. residents. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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In a separate blog post, Google said it took down 3.2 billion ads that violated its advertising policies in 2017, nearly double the number of ads it removed in 2016.

(Reporting by Tommy Wilkes in LONDON Additional reporting by Abinaya Vijayaraghavan Editing by Gopakumar Warrier)

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