Ahead of US election, Google bans ads linking to hacked political content

New Google Ads policy to enter into effect on September 1, 2020.
Written by Catalin Cimpanu, Contributor
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Image: Element5 Digital

Ahead of this year's US presidential election, Google announced on Friday a new policy for its advertising platform, banning ads that promote hacked political materials.

The new rule is set to enter into effect on September 1, 2020, Google said in a support page announcing the new rule.

Once the rule comes into effect, third-party entities won't be able to purchase ad space inside the Google Ads platform that link directly or indirectly to hacked content that was obtained from a political entity.

Ads linking to news articles or other pages discussing the hacked political content are allowed, as long as the article or page to which the ad links does not link itself to the hacked political content.

Ad buyers who break the new Google Ads Hacked political materials policy will receive a warning on their account and be asked to remove the ads or have accounts suspended after seven days.

Learning from the 2016 Presidential Election

The new policy was most likely set up with the events of the 2016 US Presidential Election in mind. In 2016, months before the election, Russian hackers breached servers of several political entities connected with the Democratic Party and leaked data online via websites like WikiLeaks and DC Leaks, and fake personas like Guccifer 2.0.

The leaks spurred an intense partisan media coverage of the hacks, with online ads on different platforms promoting articles discussing and dissecting the hacked material for political gains.

By enforcing this new rule starting next month, Google now becomes the first major ad tech company to officially ban such ads.

Of note is that in October 2018, Twitter banned the dissemination of hacked materials on its platform, ahead of the US Midterm Elections.

The ban targeted all hacked material, and not just files obtained from political entities. Since tweets can be "promoted, the ban on tweeting links to hacked content effectively also became an unofficial ban on Twitter ads as well.

Second new ad policy targets influence campaigns

Furthermore, also on Friday, Google announced a second new rule for its advertising platform. Called the Google Ads Misrepresentation policy, this new rule bans multiple entities from coordinating, lying about their identity, and then promoting ads on matters of "politics, social issues, or matters of public concern."

In other words, this is a ban on so-called "influence campaigns" that promote controversial topics that may be used to influence public opinion and political agendas in a specific region of the globe.

Google said it will begin enforcing this second policy on September 1, 2020 in the United States, and on October 1, 2020, in all other countries.

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