By Tommy Wilkes
LONDON (Reuters) - Alphabet Inc's (O:GOOGL) 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.
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 (O:FB) 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 (BTC=BTSP) 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. <.MVXRP> <.MVETH>
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.
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.
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