Google is the next big tech giant to ban political ads relating to the 2020 election after election day. Google informed its advertisers of the policy on Friday, stating via email that they will not be able to run ads “referencing candidates, the election, or its outcome, given that an unprecedented amount of votes will be counted after election day this year,” reports Axios.
According to Axios, Google considers an ad election-related if it “mentions a current state or federal officeholder or candidate, political party, or ballot measure.”
Due to Covid-19, a huge number of votes will be cast by mail. So, while the winner is usually announced on election night, this year there will likely be a delay of days or even weeks until the true result is in, which organizations fear will lead to a period of unrest and, potentially, attempts to delegitimize the results.
Facebook announced it would be implementing a similar policy last week, after Fast Company pointed out that Facebook’s policy of banning political ads in the run-up to the election would do nothing to “prevent a candidate such as Donald Trump from declaring victory, before the final results are tabulated,” at 12:01 am November 4.
President Trump has been waging war on mail-in voting for a while now by questioning its legitimacy on social media and even saying that it could be used to cheat or interfered with by foreign agents attempting to skew the results. Experts have warned that most of the votes sent in by mail will be democratic votes. If Trump was to claim victory before the others have been counted, and continued to delegitimize the system of mail-in voting, it could lead to a constitutional crisis.
Google has taken similar measures before in order to prevent disinformation from spreading around sensitive events. In March this year, the company implemented a temporary ban on advertising with Covid-19-related terms “to prevent confusion from spreading around fake goods or price-gouging related to the pandemic.” According to Axios, Google has said it will be implementing the sensitive event policy for political ads after polls close.
Google will also be banning new political ads in the run-up to the election. The policies will apply to Google Ads as well as YouTube. While it’s unclear when the ban will be lifted, a person familiar with the policy told Axios that advertisers have been told the policy should last up to seven days, but will be reviewed on a weekly basis if necessary.