Google to Make Political Ads More Transparent, Tightens Purchasing Policies

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Google to Make Political Ads More Transparent, Tightens Purchasing Policies
Google to Make Political Ads More Transparent, Tightens Purchasing Policies

As we roll into the 2018 midterm elections, Google (NYSE: GOOG) and Facebook (NYSE: FB) are ramping up election integrity efforts in the way political advertisements are run. In a statement release last Friday, Senior Vice President, Kent Walker, revealed that Google will now require political ad purchasers to provide a government issued ID and “other key information” to confirm that they are U.S. citizens or permanent residents. I.e, Sorry Mother Russia.

“For over a decade we've built products that provide information about elections around the world, to help voters make decisions on the leadership of their communities, their cities, their states and their countries,” said Walker. “We are continuing that work through our efforts to increase election advertising transparency, to improve online security for campaigns and candidates, and to help combat misinformation.”

In the coming months, Google will also release a new transparency report show who has purchased election-related ads on Google platforms, as well as how much money has been spent on those ads. At this point, the ID requirement will only be enforced for US elections, but Walker pointed out that Google wants to apply similar policies across a wider range of elections.

“As we learn from these changes and our continued engagement with [congressional] leaders and experts in the field, we'll work to improve transparency of political issue ads and expand our coverage to a wider range of elections,” Walker said.

For digital vendors and agencies, this spells a few complications. Semcasting's GM of Professional Services, Matthew Hedberg, raised a few interesting questions in response. For example, if Campaign X contracts Agency Y, who splits parts of the buy to vendors, who is responsible in the listing? Does Google publish that a vendor purchased a buy? Does it register that the demand-side platform (DSP) made a buy? Does this only affect direct buys?

“As a vendor in the digital political advertising space, I am confident that we would easily be verified as an established and trusted partner in this space,” he said. “I hope any verification of partners would be a one-time review process, and not on a campaign-by-campaign basis.”

At a base level, it'll be interesting to see how companies like Facebook and Google continue to develop election protections as we inch closer to November. And for all the flack I raise about self-regulations in big corporations, it's nice to see Google taking the initiative while Congress fumbles every ball placed in their hands.

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