Starting today, Google is issuing a pause on all political ads — as well as any ads referencing to the US Capitol siege — until “at least” January 21st, according to an email the company sent to its advertising partners that was obtained by Axios. In it, Google described taking this stance “following the unprecedented events of the past week,” and in anticipation of the upcoming inauguration.
Ads referencing “candidates, the election, its outcome, the upcoming presidential inauguration, the ongoing presidential impeachment process, violence at the U.S. Capitol, or future planned protests on these topics,” are off-limits for now, according to the email.
These past few months have been rough for political advertisers across Google’s myriad services. Following the November election, Google initially told Gizmodo it would be extending its normally scheduled political ad ban in the hopes of (somewhat ineffectually) steering any source of potential misinformation away from its platforms. The ban was later lifted in mid-December ahead of the Georgia runoffs before being instated again today, a little more than a month later.
It’s unclear when Google will be planning on lifting this new ban. The company told Business Insider that it’s not uncommon to pause ads “over unpredictable, ‘sensitive’ events when ads can be used to exploit the event or amplify misleading information.” It added that, “beyond this, we have long-standing policies blocking content that incites violence or promotes hate and we will be extremely vigilant about enforcing on any ads that cross this line.”
One of the wrinkles in enforcing this particular rule is that determining whether an ad “incites violence” isn’t always as clear cut as you’d think. For example, earlier this week Buzzfeed news reported that Facebook was serving ads for tactical gear — body armour, rifle enhancements, and the like — specifically towards people that follow pages related to extremist content.