Internet company Google has said that advertisements supplied by its AdSense service to websites across the country should not have included ones that claim to “cure” HIV.
PinkNews.co.uk was alerted to the problem when just such an advert appeared on the site.
“We review our policies to make sure that they are consistent with local business practices and customs,” a Google spokesperson explained.
“Our current policy does not allow ads that proclaim to ‘cure HIV’ because they are misleading.
“Unfortunately, these ads seem to have escaped our automated detectors but the ads will now be banned from the system.”
AdSense places “contextual advertisements” on websites.
It examines the text of a page and then tries to match advertisements to the most frequently used words and phrases.
In this case a story about awards to HIV activist groups attracted the rogue advert.
Google refused to say how many UK websites use AdSense, but did confirm that it was hundreds of thousands.
“Adverts that break their terms and conditions are automatically blocked from showing across the Google search and content networks,” the spokesperson said.
She added that people can complain about ads by clicking on the ‘ads by Google’ icon and then clicking on the “Send Google your thoughts on the site or the ads you just saw” option at the bottom of that page.
Terrence Higgins Trust, a leading sexual health charity, first contacted PinkNews.co.uk about the “cure HIV” advert.
“We’re really pleased that PinkNews.co.uk has moved to challenge the placing of these ads,” said Lisa Power, corporate head of policy for THT.
“There’s still a lot of misinformation and false rumours about HIV out on the net, and people are still profiting from ignorance.
“If you have HIV, there’s no substitute for proper medical treatment and unfortunately, as yet, no cure.”
The Advertising Standards Authority could investigate the advertisement if they receive complaints from members of the public.
The advertisement as it appeared on PinkNews.co.uk