Google will no longer allow political advertisers to target voters based on their political affiliation, the company announced, in a move that will increase pressure on Facebook to limit micro-targeting. Google also plans to “clarify” its ad policies around false claims to explicitly ban doctored video and images known as “deepfakes”, misleading claims about the census, and “demonstrably false claims” that could undermine trust in elections or the democratic process. As the 2020 US presidential election approaches, how online platforms will deal with misinformation and outright false claims by politicians has become a hot-button issue. Google — which has taken in tens of millions of dollars in political advertising in the United States since last year — has been until now notably quiet in the debate surrounding how online platforms handle political ads.
In the policy update, Google focused on misleading ads related to voter suppression and election integrity, not claims targeting candidates. “Of course, we recognize that robust political dialogue is an important part of democracy, and no one can sensibly adjudicate every political claim, counterclaim, and insinuation. So we expect that the number of political ads on which we take action will be very limited—but we will continue to do so for clear violations,” Spencer wrote.
Brad Parscale, Trump’s campaign manager, responded to Google’s move to limit targeting and the clarification on misleading ads by accusing the tech industry of trying to “rig the elections.”
“It seems like they’re targeting Trump because he’s the big dog, but they’re also aiming at Democrats like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren,” he said in a statement. “And they won’t stop until they are satisfied that they control all of digital political speech.” Campaign spokespeople for Sanders and Warren didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Political advertisers on Google will still be able to target ads at people reading or watching content about a particular issues, like the economy, Google said in a blog post.
In addition to its ad targeting announcement, Google said that beginning next month it will disclose information on a wider range of political advertising, including “U.S. state-level candidates and officeholders, ballot measures, and ads that mention federal or state political parties.”