Google has waded into the debate about social media platforms hosting political adverts with the news that it will no longer allow political campaigns to target advertising at people based on their supposed political leanings.
It comes after former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates earlier this month when asked about about his stance on political adverts, said he was more concerned by the targeting of these ads at various sections of the community, than political adverts per se.
And now it seems that Google has decided to make “a few changes to how we handle political ads on our platforms globally.”
Earlier this month an international “grand committee” of lawmakers had urged there be a pause on online targeted political ads, that contain false or misleading information.
Shortly before that, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey had revealed that from 20 November, Twitter would ban all political adverts around the world.
But now Scott Spencer, VP of product management at Google Ads revealed the changes Google will make in a blog post.
“We’re proud that people around the world use Google to find relevant information about elections and that candidates use Google and search ads to raise small-dollar donations that help fund their campaigns,” wrote Spencer.
“But given recent concerns and debates about political advertising, and the importance of shared trust in the democratic process, we want to improve voters’ confidence in the political ads they may see on our ad platforms,” Spencer said.
“So we’re making a few changes to how we handle political ads on our platforms globally,” he said. “Regardless of the cost or impact to spending on our platforms, we believe these changes will help promote confidence in digital political advertising and trust in electoral processes worldwide.”
“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,” he said. “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,” he added. “It will take some time to implement these changes, and we will begin enforcing the new approach in the UK 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.”
He also said that Google is also looking at ways to bring additional transparency to the ads it serves.
Google’s restriction of political adverts still leaves a huge elephant in the room, in the form of Facebook.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been facing ongoing pressure from campaigners and authorities, to ban political content on the platform.
But Zuckerberg has insisted that Facebook did not want to stifle political speech.