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Google to limit targeted political ads

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Google announced that its limiting audience targeting on election ads, a major shift for one of the internets largest ad platforms that comes after Twitter opted to drop political ads altogether and Facebook said its considering policy changes including limits around targeting.

Under a new policy announced Wednesday, election messaging on Googles ad platforms can target audiences based on only three general categories: age, gender and location, down to a postal code level. Political organizations and candidates will no longer be able to aim their ads at would-be voters using more personal information, such as political affiliation and voting records. Political advertisers will still be able to place contextual ads based on the subject matter of, for instance, YouTube videos or news articles that people are watching or reading.

The company also announced that it would clarify its ad policy to add examples of whats prohibited in ads. Material that will now be expressly banned includes deepfakes — sophisticated visual forgeries generated using artificial intelligence — and “ads or destinations making demonstrably false claims that could significantly undermine participation or trust in an electoral or democratic process,” Scott Spencer, Google Ads vice president of product management, wrote in a blog post.

“[G]iven 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.

Outright lies like giving the wrong date for Election Day will continue to be prohibited. But Spencer suggested the company will give a wide berth to claims that are simply questionable. He wrote that the company recognizes “that robust political dialogue is an important part of democracy, and no one can sensibly adjudicate every political claim,” and that it expects “the number of political ads on which we take action will be very limited—but we will continue to do so for clear violations.”

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The move comes as tech giants grapple with how to handle campaign messaging in a politically fractious time. And Googles light-touch approach to misleading political ads echoes aspects of Facebooks permissive ad policy that now face scrutiny. That company largely political ads free reign, allowing misleading claims and extensive demographic and geographic targeting.

That position, which CEO Mark Zuckerberg has defended as being in keeping with a commitment to free expression, has drawn heavy criticism, including from 2020 U.S. presidential candidates like Senator Elizabeth Warren (Democrat-Massachusetts) and former Vice President Joe Biden, the target of a misleading Trump campaign ad that Facebook refused to take down. (Googles YouTube also carried the ad.) Facebooks global policy chief, Nick Clegg, confirmed to POLITICO earlier this month that the company is now considering revising aspects of its permissive political ad policy, including potentially placing limits on targeting capabilities.

But that prospect has in turn sparked ire from U.S. President Donald Trumps reelection campaign, which tweeted Wednesday, “@facebook wants to take important tools away from us for 2020. Tools that help us reach more great Americans & lift voices the media & big tech choose to ignore!”

And the campaign was just as critical of Twitters move to simply drop political ads. The presidents 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale called the decision “yet another attempt to silence conservatives,” claiming it was meant to undercut Trumps campaign apparatus. Other Republicans like Senator Ted Cruz (Republican-Texas) raised more general objections, arguing the move runs counter to free speech principles.

Googles policy adjustments will take effect in the U.S. on January 6, 2020, the company announced. (Theyll be rolled out sooner in the U.K. and E.U.). But theyre already drawing critiques of their own, with some commentators across the political spectrum worrying theyll disproportionately hurt grassroots campaigns and entrench moneyed incumbents that can afford to weather some changes.

“Honestly, I think it is just reckless,” said Greg Berlin, the founder of the Democratic digital advertising firm Narrative. “My largest concern is that it gives a big advantage to the party that has moRead More – Source

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