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Google to ban political affiliation targeting

Google will stop allowing political advertisers to target voters based on political affiliation to guard against misinformation.

Under the tech giant’s new rules, candidates, political parties, or ballot measures will be barred from using some of Google’s powerful tools that combine data sources, and target individual users, but political advertisers will still be allowed to target voters by age, gender, and location to the level of the postal code.

“We’re clarifying our ads policies and adding examples to show how our policies prohibit things like ‘deep fakes’ (doctored and manipulated media), misleading claims about the census process, and ads or destinations making demonstrably false claims that could significantly undermine participation or trust in an electoral or democratic process,” said Scott Spencer, vice-president of product management at Google Ads.

“Of course, we recognise 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.”

Google will begin enforcing the new approach in the UK within a week, ahead of the country’s general election; in the EU by the end of the year; and in the rest of the world from 6 January 2020 onwards.

In October, Twitter decided to ban almost all political advertising, starting 22 November. Candidates, elected officials, and parties were banned from advertising, but some non-profit organisations and companies were permitted to promote messages about social issues.

However, tech giants go to different extremes when it comes to digital political ads.

Also in October, Facebook exempted political ads from a ban on making false claims. A Facebook spokesman once said it was not in the right position to referee political debates, and that it wouldn’t be appropriate for Facebook to prevent a politician’s speech from reaching its audience, and being subject to public debate and scrutiny.

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