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Google cracks down on political advertising

21 Nov 2019  |  David Pidgeon 
Google cracks down on political advertising

Google has this week announced that political advertisers will no longer be able to target voters based on their political beliefs, following similar moves from Twitter.

The announcement, made by the company on Wednesday, will add pressure to Facebook, which has resisted calls to limit mico-targeted political ads, citing concerns over freedom of expression.

"Given recent concerns and debates about political advertising, and the importance of shared trust in the democratic process, we want to improve voters' confidence in the political ads they may see on our ad platforms," Google said.

"So we’re making a few changes to how we handle political ads on our platforms globally. Regardless of the cost or impact to spending on our platforms, we believe these changes will help promote confidence in digital political advertising and trust in electoral processes worldwide."

Google has never offered granular micro-targeting of election ads, however it said it believed there was more it could do as a company to promote increased visibility of election ads.

The move will allow election ads audience targeting via age, gender, and post-code location. However, according to an email sent to advertisers, ads that target 'affinity audiences', 'voter-file targeting' and other 'political affinity audiences' will be banned. First and third party data use through DMPs is also banned.

Political advertisers can, however, continue to do contextual targeting, such as serving ads to people reading or watching a particular story.

"This will align our approach to election ads with long-established practices in media such as TV, radio, and print, and result in election ads being more widely seen and available for public discussion."

Google was also revising its policies to limit the use of deep fakes and misleading or "demonstrably false claims" designed to interfere with elections.

The changes will be implemented in the UK within a week, ahead of the 12 December General Election, and in the EU by the end of the year. The US and the rest of the world will follow early January.

Twitter recently banned all political advertising paid for by politicians and has limited the targetting tools available to campaign groups.

Meanwhile, Facebook said it is looking at different ways it might refine its approach to political ads, but has made no formal moves to change its policies.

“Google’s announcement marks a significant step in our call to address the lack of transparency, accountability and honesty of microtargeted political ads online - something we have repeatedly questioned," said Says Paul Bainsfair, director general, IPA.

"As such, Google should be applauded. However, despite this and other various positive steps being taken in this area, our concern that trust in advertising will continue to be undermined by this form of opaque advertising will remain until there is a universal online register of all political ads – to which all media platforms must comply.”

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01 Jul 2020 

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