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Google limiting and generalizing political ad targeting around the world

Ahead of next month’s General Election in the UK and US presidential race next year, Google is changing its policy for political ad targeting. It follows Twitter banning similar ads, and criticism of Facebook for not doing the same.

The company’s advertising networks are limiting election ads audience targeting to age, gender, and general location (postal code level). This includes Search, YouTube, and display ads that appear on third-party sites.

Previously, Google’s basic political targeting in the US allowed for ads to be served based on public voter records and general political affiliations (left-leaning, right-leaning, and independent).

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

Enforcement on this new ad policy begins within a week for the UK — in time for their election on December 12th — and in the European Union by year’s end. The rest of the world will be subject starting January 6th.

Google today is also clarifying its ad policies in regards to false claims. It will be more explicit about not allowing:

“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.

That said, Google argues that “no one can sensibly adjudicate every political claim, counterclaim, and insinuation.” It “expects” that the action it takes will be “very limited,” but will be applied to “clear violations.”

Another change is expanding election advertising transparency reports to US state-level candidates and officeholders, ballot measures, and ads that mention federal or state political parties. This is a searchable database available online for the public.

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Avatar for Abner Li Abner Li

Editor-in-chief. Interested in the minutiae of Google and Alphabet. Tips/talk: