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Google disables RCS ads in India

Last month we reported on the rampant abuse of RCS in Google Messages that was flooding users in India with ads, and now, Google is stopping that abuse to address the problem.

Google Messages RCS ads are paused, for now
For over a year now, ads have been hitting Google Messages users with RCS enabled in India. While the problem is common across both RCS and traditional SMS, the problem was getting worse with RCS, and more frequent in recent months. Ads were often for personal loans, among other businesses, and could be predatory at times.

This week, Google has confirmed that it will stop RCS ads in India, at least for a brief time. Speaking to Gadgets360, Google says:

We are aware that some businesses are abusing our anti-spam policies to send promotional messages to users in India. We are disabling this feature in India while we work with the industry to improve the experience for users.

The change is already live, according to the publication, and has been for around a week. Prior to this change, the only way to effectively disable ads coming from RCS was to turn off “Chat Features” entirely in the Google Messages app.

Why were these ads a problem?
Advertisements and promotions through SMS are common, but the advertisements arriving through Google Messages RCS were more on the harmful, blatant end of the spectrum.

The advertisements were largely financial, meaning there was more at stake. Further, the ads were not prompted by any user action. Ads were delivered at random. Also, these RCS ads would usually have special formatting that took over more of the user’s experience than a simple text message would.

Google acknowledged that the advertisements were abuse of the “Verified Business” tool in the Messages app, which is supposed to be used for interacting with customers, not promotion such as this.

Google’s pause of advertising will not stop these businesses from interacting with customers over RCS, but will stop ads.

In a post last week, Android Authority relayed a firsthand experience of the ads, saying that advertisements arrived “within the first hour of switching back to Google Messages.” Three ads arrived, unsolicited, in less than 10 hours.

It’s clearly a good thing that Google is pausing ads sent through RCS, but it will be interesting to see the company’s long-term solution. With RCS being the tentpole for Google’s consumer messaging efforts, it’s very important to get this right, especially as it would be catastrophic to the company’s efforts if this sort of behavior became common globally. 9To5Google

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