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Google Approaching Election Ads with More Transparency

In today’s blog, were taking a step away from search engine optimisation and looking into Google’s new transparency measures.

Google has decided to build in more transparency into the political advertising being run on its ad networks. Google’s policies surrounding political ads and campaigns were amended back in May – requiring ID of anyone trying to purchase political advertising – but Google has now starting making information regarding the system public.

The company announced its intentions on the subject three months ago, and as of last week has released its first political advertising transparency report, and political advertising library.

The Political Ad Transparency Report

Part of Google’s strategy is the transparency report which makes public the money spent on political advertising in the US, and organizes it by state, and by congressional district. The report also includes a ranking of the top advertisers based on their spending via Google ad campaigns.

The most popular keywords are also ranked by money spent, displaying which keywords have been utilized the most by political campaigners during the current US election cycle, dating back to may 31st. Google has confirmed that this information will update each week, and is all downloadable.

The Political Ad Library 

The other half of Google’s political transparency measures, the ad library is an archive of searchable political advertisements that have appeared in Google’s ad networks. It also only dates back to May, as with the spending metrics in the Transparency Reports, but as time goes on, the tools provided for searching the archive will become more useful.

According to Google, users will be able to view full version of all the ads indexed in the archive, and be able to track who paid for it, how much they paid, its impact during it’s run, and how long it ran for.

Google’s Plans for the Future

Currently, this feature is restricted to the US, but Google has expressed its intention to try to expand the feature elsewhere. They also plan to research ways to apply similar transparency measures to advertising on political issues beyond advertisements that are explicitly tied to candidates for election.

It’s likely we’ll continue to see movement on these fronts for a while. Nearly all major social media platforms made changes to their ad policies following the mounting evidence that Russia manipulated the 2016 US election via malicious ad content. Facebook and Twitter have faced much more backlash that Google on the subject, but Google seems to be acknowledging the role that they played, or at least trying to avoid playing such a role in future.

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22 August 2018


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