Google is going to ban political advertisers from targeting audiences based upon their political preferences, the company announced.
The company said its new policy would be implemented in the UK within a week, and in the rest of the world in January, as the company faces mounting criticism over its advertising policies during the general election.
It will impact search ads – which appear on Google in response to searches – display advertisements served through Google Ads, one of the most ubiquitous advertising platforms across the web, as well as on YouTube.
Advertisements targeting people based on their political preferences is already unlawful in the UK, although it is not in the US. It is unclear if Google has run such advertising campaigns during this general election.
A spokesperson for the company told Sky News theat it didn’t allow advertisers to target citizens in the UK based on their inferred political leanings, nor on their religion, sexual orientation, or memebership in a trade group.
The company did not explain whether advertisers could upload their own lists of pre-targeted individuals and their contact details to Google for such targeted advertising, however.
Alongside rival Twitter – but unlike Facebook – Google said it would also ban advertisements which made “demonstrably false claims that could significantly undermine participation or trust in an electoral or democratic process”.
The company said: “We provide a publicly accessible, searchable, and downloadable transparency report of election ad content and spending on our platforms, going beyond what’s offered by most other advertising media.”
However, there has recently been criticism of whether the company’s advertisements library was effectively providing transparency over who was paying for political ads during the campaigning period.
The Guardian newspaper revealed the company was underreporting spending on political advertisements in the UK, bringing into question how effective Google’s advertisements transparency initiative has been.
Election advertisements can still be targeted based on age, gender, and post-code level location; contextual targeting, advertisements which appear on pages based on their content, will still be allowed.
Under existing British law, any candidates, political parties or non-party campaigners are required to have an imprint on any of their printed election campaigning material to show that they have produced it.
A digital imprint regime would have introduced a similar requirement for Google, YouTube, and similar social media platforms used by campaigners – but the government failed to introduce these protections in time for the election.
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