A planned change to the Google ads policy will allow some ads for unproven cell and gene therapies. This shift, allowing educational ads, was just announced.
I have a few concerns about this change that will start in July.
Google ads policy and stem cells
This move seems to be a refinement of their “ad ban” policy from 2019. That original policy said that all ads related to unproven stem cells wouldn’t be allowed.
At the time, that Google policy led to some good citizens of the field not being allowed to advertise.
It was too broad.
Perhaps the new announcement reflects a goal of refining the “ban” to have some subtlety. I can see how some good could come from that if the newly allowed ads are only educational in nature.
Risks from the shift moving forward
However, the change will bring risks too.
I’m not sure how well Google will evaluate whether a candidate ad is strictly educational.
Giving me more doubt is the fact that Google search now gives promotional stem cell clinic websites rankings that are way too high in search results. Google may misidentify those clinic sites as educational because the webpages are often also full of generic content about stem cells that somehow Google values. The search engine is not fine tuned enough to find and negatively weight to the sites’ promotional content for risky medical offerings.
I also more recently wrote about the specific example of how Google gets stem cell therapy side effects search results wrong.
So will the newly tweaked Google ads policy lead to a net positive change starting in July? I hope so, but I won’t be surprised if some stem cell clinic and promotion sites pop up in Google ads moving forward too. However, Google Ads and Google Search work in very different ways so we’ll see.
Will we also see ads for stem cell clinical trials?
For more on this news, also check out coverage over at Gizmodo.