The company said that as of January, advertisers will only be able to target US political ads based on broad categories such as gender, age and postal code. Currently, ads can be tailored for more specific groups – for instance, using information gleaned from public voter logs, such as political affiliation.
The change will take effect in the UK in the next week, before the general election, and in the European Union before the end of 2019. It will apply everywhere else in early January.
Google reiterated that ads making false claims are prohibited, adding that so-called deepfakes – realistic but false video clips – are not allowed. Neither are “demonstrably false” claims that could affect voter trust in an election.
But in a blog post announcing the news, Google Ads vice president Scott Spencer noted that political dialogue is important and “no one can sensibly adjudicate every political claim, counterclaim and insinuation.”
Scott Spencer, Vice President, Google Ads”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.”
Like all Google ads, political advertisers can also use the broader practice of “contextual targeting,” which involves placing ads about, say, climate change on articles about the environment.