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Google Won’t Allow Political Campaigns to Target Voters by Affiliation Anymore

Google is tweaking its policy for political ads, which includes doing away with microtargeting by political affiliation or voting records. The search giant also announced Wednesday that it would clarify its advertising policy to make sure that political advertisers can’t make grossly misleading statements.

“We’re limiting election ads audience targeting to the following general categories: age, gender, and general location (postal code level),” Google Ads vice president Scott Spencer explained in a blog post Wednesday afternoon. “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.”

The policy applies to Google’s search ads, YouTube ads and display ads that appear on third-party websites.

Spencer further explained that Google had in the past allowed advertisers in the U.S. to target voters “based on public voter records and general political affiliations (left-leaning, right-leaning, and independent). ” This type of targeting will now be removed, starting with the U.K. this week ahead of the country’s election. By early January, Google will have disabled the ability to target voters by political affiliation around the globe, Spencer wrote.

Google also vowed to clarify its policies around false policies in political advertising. “It’s against our policies for any advertiser to make a false claim — whether it’s a claim about the price of a chair or a claim that you can vote by text message, that election day is postponed, or that a candidate has died,” Spencer wrote Wednesday. The company now wants to add concrete examples to its policies to make sure that campaigns don’t use manipulated videos, or claims that could suppress voter turnout.

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“No one can sensibly adjudicate every political claim, counterclaim, and insinuation,” Spencer wrote about these changes. “So we expect that the number of political ads on which we take action will be very limited — but we will continue to do so for clear violations.”

Google’s announcement comes three weeks after Twitter said that it would ban all political advertising going forward, and also follows continued pressure on Facebook to change its policies around political advertising. Earlier this week, Facebook VP of marketing solutions Carolyn Everson said at Code Media that the company wasn’t looking to change the targeting capabilities it is offering political advertisers. However, soon after, she walked back those remarks, suggesting that the company is still considering a number of options.

Facebook, in a statement about Google’s political ad-policy change, said, “For over a year, we’ve provided unprecedented transparency into all U.S. federal and state campaigns and we prohibit voter suppression in all ads. As we’ve said, we are looking at different ways we might refine our approach to political ads.”

Gary Coby, the digital director for President Trump’s reelection campaign, took to Twitter Wednesday to describe any such changes to a campaign’s targeting abilities as “very dangerous” and a “huge blow to speech.”

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