Google Bans Political Ads that Target Voters by Their Political Leanings


Nov 21, 2019


Image Credit: Tech News

Ahead of Britain’s general elections, due in less than a month, Google has announced a set of new policies that limit, but not ban, political advertisements on its platform. It now joins Twitter, which announced a platform‑wide ban on all political advertising last month, The Swaddle reported.

According to the recent development, the search engine will now limit political campaigns’ audience targeting to age, gender and the general location at a postal code level only. Before this move, it was possible for political advertisers to run ads that targeted voters using data that indicated whether they were left-leaning, right-leaning or independent. The platform is also discarding a feature called Customer Match, which lets advertisers upload their own lists of email addresses or phone numbers to target ads.

Google has also said it won’t allow false claims about election results or the eligibility of political candidates based on age or birthplace. The new policies will also look at prohibiting doctored and manipulated political content.

The revised policies are ready to be enforced within a week in the United Kingdom. They will be active in the European Union by the end of the year and in the rest of the world starting on 6 January 2020.

“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,” said Scott Spencer, vice president, product management, Google Ads, in an official blog post that also stated the revised policy. “Political advertisers can, of course, continue to do contextual targeting, such as serving ads to people reading or watching a story about, say, the economy,” he added.

For those new to the way all of this works, Google Ads, also known as Google AdWords, is an advertising system. In this, advertisers bid on certain keywords so that their clickable ads appear when Google users search for something related; Google makes money through this because advertisers pay them for these clicks.

Related on The Swaddle:

Twitter Founder Jack Dorsey Announces Platform‑Wide Ban on All Political Advertising

Political advertisers take online advertising very seriously. U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign ran 5.9 million different versions of ads for six months on Facebook, costing US$44 million, according to Bloomberg. And in this year alone, his re-election campaign has spent more than US$15 million on ads online.

Since Google’s move, Facebook, the largest platform for political advertising, has been under pressure to take the same route. The social media behemoth hasn’t hinted at changing anything so far. “For over a year, we’ve provided unprecedented transparency into all U.S. federal and state campaigns — and we prohibit voter suppression in all ads,” a company spokesman said. “As we’ve said, we are looking at different ways we might refine our approach to political ads.”

How this will change the face of political advertising is going to be a game of wait and watch, especially in India, where political parties, once big on traditional modes of campaigning, are now slowly spending a large share of their advertising budgets on online ads. Per a report, more than 830 different political parties ran ads worth Rs 3.76 crore in 45 days on Google alone, making it the second-largest platform of political advertising in India after Facebook, which raked in Rs 10.32 crore in the same time period.


Written By Anubhuti Matta

Anubhuti Matta is an associate editor with The Swaddle. When not at work, she’s busy pursuing kathak, reading books on and by women in the Middle East or making dresses out of Indian prints.


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