Google Weighs In On Political Ads

Mountain View, California, USA - March 29, 2018: Google sign on the building at Google's headquarters in Silicon Valley . Google is an American technology company in Internet-related services and products.

Google is limiting targeting on political ads and extending a ban on campaigns that make misleading claims.

Political advertising is a big topic for social media platforms, as the US gears up for next year’s Presidential Elections.

Twitter recently announced a total ban on political advertising (with some caveats), while Facebook has been forced to stand by its policy.

And now Google has weighed in, announcing changes around how targeting is used to persuade voters.

“While we’ve never offered granular microtargeting of election ads, we believe there’s more we can do to further promote increased visibility of election ads,” said Google Ads VP product management Scott Spencer.

“That’s why we’re limiting election ads audience targeting to the following general categories: age, gender, and general location (postal code level).”

The restriction is already in place in some regions around the world, including Europe, but will be made global as of 6 January 2020.

Spencer explained political advertisers can continue to do contextual targeting, for example serving an ad to someone reading a story about the economy.

The search engine is also doubling down on its policies against ads that make false claims, political or otherwise.

“Whether you’re running for office or selling office furniture, we apply the same ads policies to everyone; there are no carve-outs,” Spencer said.

“It’s against our policies for any advertiser to make a false claim—whether it’s a claim about the price of a chair or a claim that you can vote by text message, that election day is postponed, or that a candidate has died.”

‘Deep fakes’ – which have risen in popularity recently – are also prohibited under Google’s ads policy.

According to Spencer, Google’s aim isn’t to restrict overall political discourse, rather he said “we recognize that robust political dialogue is an important part of democracy”.

Rather, it is about outlawing advertisements and techniques that could “significantly undermine participation or trust in an electoral or democratic process”.

Of course, it would be impossible for Google to adequately monitor every single political claim and counterclaim that appears as an ad on the platform.

Spencer said this means the number of political ads removed will be “very limited” but added “we will continue to do so for clear violations”.


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