Google Bans Political Ads from Using Voter Data for Targeting

Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Chrome, speaks at Google's annual developer conference, Google I/O, in San Francisco on 28 June 2012
KIMIHIRO HOSHINO/AFP/GettyImages

Google reportedly plans to ban political advertisers from targeting election ads using data such as public voter records and general political affiliations.

Reuters reports that Google plans to stop allowing advertisers to target election ads using data such as public voting records and political affiliations. This decision comes as social media firms are placed under pressure from members of Congress over their handling of political advertising ahead of the U.S. presidential election in 2020.

Google stated that it would limit audience targeting for election ads ranging from age, gender, and location. Political advertisers will be allowed to contextually target such as serving ads to people that are searching form information on a certain topic.

Scott Spencer, vice president of product management for Google Ads, wrote in a 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.

Tim Cameron, chief executive of FlexPoint Media, stated that his firm will no longer be licensing Google’s ad-buying tool in January as a result of the new restrictions. Cameron stated that the voter file features allowed FlexPoint to target people who did not regularly vote and encourage them to turn out. Cameron believes that the loss of such targeting could result in “a slow decline of civic participation” and hurt the ability of “insurgent, underfunded candidates” to gain support.

Twitter has banned political ads on its platform while Facebook is reviewing its policies following harsh criticism from lawmakers over its decision to not fact-check ads from politicians.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or email him at lnolan@breitbart.com

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