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Change in Google policies changes online plans for 2020 campaigns

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SAN FRANCISCO – Google will restrict exactly how political advertisers can target audiences through its online services, the company announced on Wednesday, to shake digital plans for campaigns during the 2020 presidential election.

Political advertisers can target their messages to people based on their age, gender, or location. Google also makes it possible to target ads based on the content of the websites they visit. However, the ads can no longer be targeted to specific audiences based on their public electoral rolls or political affiliations, which are categorized as “left-wing”, “right-wing” or “independent”, the company said in a blog post.

The policy applies to ads shown to users of the Google and YouTube search engines and to ads sold by the company that appear on other websites.

The decision left political strategists stunned and desperate to react. Modern political campaigns have relied on the tools and data offered by technology giants like Google and Facebook that dominate the online advertising industry. The campaigns were able to provide potential voters with diverse messages based on signals such as political leanings, articles read, videos viewed, and things searched for.

Rather than bombarding an entire city with an expensive TV commercial, the so-called microtargeting of political advertising is controversial because it allows advertisers to target specific voters and potentially avoid wider scrutiny of their messages.

“This will align our approach to campaigning with long-established media practices such as television, radio and print and will result in campaigning being seen more widely and made available for public discussion,” wrote Scott Spencer, a vice president for Google’s advertising team .

Tech companies are facing increasing criticism of the way they handle political speeches, including advertising. Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg is accused of spreading disinformation, hate speech and violent content. However, he said that despite mounting pressure, particularly from Democrats, he would not block political ads with false statements.

Last month, Twitter announced that it would ban all political ads from its service. Twitter’s move was largely seen in response to the controversy caused by Facebook.

The political ads debate came to the fore after Facebook and Google failed to remove a 30-second video ad from the Trump campaign in which a false claim about interactions with Ukraine was made with Joseph R. Biden Jr., former Vice President, a Democratic presidential candidate was put up.

Brad Parscale, Mr Trump’s campaign manager, hit Google on Twitter for policy change, accusing the political elites and big tech of “rigging the election” and saying they would “not stop until they complete the whole.” control digital political speech. “Previously, the Trump campaign also tweeted criticizing Facebook for considering changes to its advertising policy and said it wanted to” take away important tools for 2020 “.

Tom Channick, a Facebook spokesperson, said the company had “explored different ways we could refine our approach to political ads.”

Google said that while it had not allowed advertisers – including politicians – to make false claims, it clarified its policy to specifically prohibit ads that “have been shown to make false claims that could seriously undermine participation or confidence” in the election process. However, Google noted that it expects to take action against a “very limited” number of political ads. Michael Posner, a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business, said Google’s policy change is a good start, but it doesn’t go far enough in dealing with potential misinformation.

“It feels too much like a lawyer looking for language to give the company a lot of leeway,” said Posner.

Google said it would roll out the new guidelines within a week of the UK general election and then in January, just before the Iowa, United States and rest of the world elections. The company said the ad policy would include any candidate or office holder from elected state or federal offices.

In an email to Campaigns, Google outlined the new rules in greater detail, including that election advertising may no longer be targeted at so-called “affinity audiences”, which look like other groups that campaigns may be targeting. Campaigns can also no longer upload their own lists of persons in order to place advertisements.

In addition, the so-called “remarketing”, in which advertisements are shown for people who have previously carried out an action such as visiting the website of a campaign, is no longer applicable.

“It doesn’t allow us to target based on personal information,” said Danielle Butterfield, paid media director of Priorities USA, a leading Democratic super-PAC that has announced it will spend more than $ 100 million, much of it on-line.

Keegan Goudiss, a democratic digital strategist, was concerned about the ramifications beyond the campaigns. “We are quickly moving into a world where corporate communication takes precedence over anything that is considered ‘political’,” he said. “That is dangerous for democracy.”

The misfortune spread on both sides of the corridor.

Michael Duncan, a Republican digital strategist, described the announcement as a “terrible” move that “will hurt low-budget basic campaigns,” which often rely on microtargeting to be successful.

“You are appeasing a mob that will never be satisfied and undermining the very foundation of the internet economy,” Duncan wrote on Twitter.

Daisuke Wakabayashi reported from San Francisco and Shane Goldmacher from New York. Kate Conger contributed the coverage from San Francisco.

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