Washington State Pressures Google Into Pausing Election Advertisements

By Nitish Singh / June 7, 2018

Pressure from the Attorney General of Washington Bob Ferguson has forced Google to stop running ads for local elections. Ferguson accused Facebook and Google of receiving money amounting to $3.4 and $1.5 million respectively for running ads, but both companies have not disclosed any information about the backers of the ad campaigns. While the tech giant has paused its campaigns, Facebook is yet to make an official response following the Washington lawsuit. The social media company did, however, promise to label all of its political campaign ads as well as mention the backers of said ads starting this year.

According to the Public Disclosure Commission, digital communications platforms are bound by Washington’s campaign finance laws to disclose information on political campaigns to the public for both local and state elections. Google has shut down its ad campaigns temporarily, but the company promised that they would be aligning policies to abide by the campaign disclosure laws.

If Google wants to continue ad campaigns for political parties, the company will need to maintain corresponding records for at least three years after an election concludes. They will also need to fully disclose information like the targeted audience and geographical locations of ad campaigns as well as information on the kind of impressions the campaigns generate. It is the first time the tech giant has paused a political campaign in the company’s history.

With the European GDPR policies in place and the focus on transparency all over the world in the wake of recent data breach incidents, Google seems to be treading carefully in the situation. The company is unlikely to completely halt the political campaigns with millions of dollars of revenue at stake; changes are likely to take place in Google’s ad publishing policies before the paused campaigns are resumed.

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