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Google to Place Limits on Political Advertisements ahead of 2020 Election

(Aly Song/Reuters)

Google announced on Wednesday it would place restrictions on political advertising in advance of the 2020 presidential election, following Twitter’s announcement that it would ban political ads altogether.

According to its new policy, Google will prohibit advertisers from targeting users based on their browser history, known party affiliation or voting records. Advertisers will still be allowed to use age, gender and location, down to a postal code level, to reach users.

In addition, “ads or destinations making demonstrably false claims that could significantly undermine participation or trust in an electoral or democratic process” will also be prohibited, Google Ads’ vice president of project management Scott Spencer wrote in a blog post.

Spencer implied that ads may contain questionable information that doesn’t constitute total falsehoods, saying “robust political dialogue is an important part of democracy, and no one can sensibly adjudicate every political claim.” He added that “the number of political ads on which we take action will be very limited.”

Google’s restrictions will be implemented in the United Kingdom, which is holding elections on December 12, within a week, while the restrictions will take effect in the European Union by the end of 2019 and in the rest of the world by January 6, 2020.

Twitter announced earlier this month it would ban political advertisements completely. Rival company Facebook has previously said it will not fact-check political ads, but left open the door to changes in its policy in a Wednesday announcement.

“For over a year, we’ve provided unprecedented transparency into all U.S. federal and state campaigns—and we prohibit voter suppression in all ads,” a Facebook spokesman said. “As we’ve said, we are looking at different ways we might refine our approach to political ads.”

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