Google Follows Twitter, Will Restrict Political Ad Targeting, Ban Misleading Info

Three weeks after Twitter announced it would ban political advertising, with mixed results so far...

... Google said late on Wednesday it too will limit political advertising as it plans to stop allowing highly targeted political ads on its platform, a move that comes in a time when tech giants are already drawing scrutiny for their rules on political advertising. The company will also restrict misinformation and ban doctored media known as deepfakes in ads following criticism that Google and rival Facebook ran ads from U.S. President Donald Trump that were intentionally misleading.

Google will first roll out the ban next week in the UK, ahead of the Dec. 12 general election. Then, by the end of 2019, the ban will take effect across the European Union by the end of the year and in the rest of the world on Jan. 6, the company said in a blog post.

The Google policy changes follow calls for regulation of political advertising online, including from Federal Election Commission Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub.

Under the new policy, political ads will only target a users’ age, gender and location at the postal code-level, while more granular aspects of the target audience will no longer be exposed. That said, political advertisers will still be allowed to use contextual targeting, such as serving ads to users reading about a particular topic.

This is what the company said in the blog post:

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. That’s why we’re limiting election ads audience targeting to the following general categories: age, gender, and general location (postal code level). 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. 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. (Of course, some media, like direct mail, continues to be targeted more granularly.) It will take some time to implement these changes, and we will begin enforcing the new approach in the U.K. within a week (ahead of the General Election), in the EU by the end of the year, and in the rest of the world starting on January 6, 2020

And since political advertisers will henceforth pinpoint accuracy, Google's political ads will become an even greater nuisance to everyone else too, as advertisers will now have to "shotgun" their target audience, and be forced to buy even more ads to make sure they reach the intended eyeballs... which is precisely what Google's motive may well be here, because at the end of the day, if Google sells more ads, it means more sales, and a higher stock price.

Google said it’s updating its overall ads policy to prohibit “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", because of course saying it hopes to boost revenue by "doing no evil" seems just a tad gauche.

Google previously imposed certain regulations on political advertising for U.S. federal races last year, and it said it would expand those existing regulations to cover U.S. state-level candidates and officeholders, ballot measures and ads that mention federal or state political parties. Google reported $127 million in revenue from U.S. political ads since June 2018, a small amount of the company’s overall sales.

The new targeting policy will apply to ads on Google Search, YouTube and ads purchased on sites across the web through Google’s ad-buying software.