In what the Washington Post unthreateningly describes as a “new political ad strategy,” Democratic Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe’s campaign is manipulating Google’s ad platform to insert fake news headlines on links to news stories relevant to the election — and Google is allowing it.
Google and other tech giants have loudly trumpeted their campaigns against “misinformation” and “fake news” in recent years, but this is another reminder that the tech giants will turn a blind eye when Democrats use technological tools to spread their own variety of misinformation.
The McAuliffe campaign has used Google’s ad platform to insert its own headlines above links to stories from the Washington Post and Axios, headlines that neither news organization ever published. These stories are then pushed to the top of users’ Google search results as promoted links.
Even the partisan Democrat newspaper the Washington Post noted that the tactic “raised concern” from media experts.
…the ad includes titles written by the campaign, which are subtly different from the original search engine headlines written by the publications, and appear in the same format as a headline would appear in a search result.
An Axios article with the title “Virginia Governor’s race features Taylor Swift,” appears in Google search results, for instance, but the McAuliffe campaign opted for a different title in its paid advertising link to the same article: “Glenn Youngkin – Betrayed Taylor Swift.”
The changes and formatting of these new ads — almost identical to how a news article would appear in search engine results — was enough to raise concern for some political and media experts, who said the ads could make it appear as though the news organizations were writing the altered headlines or the candidate was paying for the coverage.
The election for the next Governor of Virginia will take place in just under two weeks, on Tuesday, November 2. Polls have consistently been tight, showing both candidates, McAuliffe and his Republican opponent Glenn Youngkin, within the margin of error.
In such a tight race, isolated factors — like Google allowing McAuliffe to promote fake news headlines through its search results — could end up having a big impact.
After this article published, Google provided the following state to Breitbart News: “Advertisers who wish to run election ads on our platform are required to go through a verification process and provide in-ad disclosures that clearly display who paid for the ad. These ads also appear in our transparency report, which is available to the public.”
Update — Added a statement from Google received after publication.
Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. He is the author of #DELETED: Big Tech’s Battle to Erase the Trump Movement and Steal The Election.