Thursday, January 24, 2008

Our political advertising policies

The Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary are behind us, and Super Tuesday is just around the corner. So far in this presidential campaign season, candidates have used the web in new and creative ways - including social networks, maps mashups, geo-targeting online ads and even sending a Twitter or two. While none of these tools can take the place of voters sizing up a candidate up close (bringing to mind the New Hampshire voter who once said she hadn't made up her mind about a candidate because "I've only met him twice"), these new technologies have helped voters get more personally engaged in the political process.

The same is true of ads. TV and radio campaign ads, with their charges and counter-charges, have long been a staple of political campaigns. And increasingly, candidates of all political stripes are using keyword ads on Google and other search engines to help reach voters who care about particular issues. Political candidates used to have to go door-to-door or stand outside supermarkets to recruit potential supporters. Now they can build a base of support more efficiently online, in part by using Google's targeted advertising tools to reach prospective voters directly.

This is a good thing for the political process. We recognize that the nature of political advertising is to inspire debate, and we are committed to fairness and freedom of expression. Last year, we created an elections team to help political campaigns use our advertising tools. And we recently published new guidelines for political ads placed on Google. A few key parts of those policies:

  • Editorial Guidelines. Like all AdWords ads, political ads must follow our editorial and content policies (including our trademark policies). Google may refuse any ads or terminate ad campaigns at any time, for any reason, as noted in the advertising Terms and Conditions.

  • Fairness. We permit political advertisements regardless of the political views they represent, and apply our policies equally. Just as the Net itself provides space for a thousand political opinions to bloom, Google is committed to being a neutral platform for people to advertise their political messages.

  • No attacks on an individual's personal life. Stating disagreement with or campaigning against a candidate for public office, a political party, or public administration is generally permissible. However, political ads must not include accusations or attacks relating to an individual's personal life, nor can they advocate against a protected group. So, "Crime rates are up under Police Commissioner Gordon" is okay, but "Police Commissioner Gordon had an affair" is not.
  • Donations. If you're soliciting political donations, your ad's landing page must clearly state that the donations are non-tax-deductible.

  • No misleading ads. As with all AdWords advertisements, political ads should not mislead users (for example, using ad text that leads a user to believe that they're clicking on Dog Catcher Jones' ad when it's really his challenger's ad). Ad text must be clear, easy to read, and descriptive of a candidate or cause.
Political campaigns and candidates with questions about these policies are encouraged contact our elections team. In the meantime, we hope that you'll take the time to learn about the candidates, their views, and who is best prepared to lead our country.


Dave Johansen said...

I believe that this is a good idea and I agree with the principle of it, but I can't say that I agree with the implementation.

I think that points 1, 2, 4, and 5 are fine, but I don't agree with point 3. It's too much of a gray area and opens the door for bias towards some candidates/actions.

For example, take the recent occurrence with Rudy Giuliani and his use of tax payer dollars to meet with and protect his mistress. Would talking about this be personal (because it involves his actions outside of acting as an elected official), or would not be personal (because it involves tax payers dollars).

The problem is that you can't create a blanket rule that always includes/excludes things, because once there's a rule, people will simply find a loophole to include/exclude cases like those mentioned above.

Basically, I agree with the principle, but it opens the door to a lot of biased censorship and I believe opening that door is worse than the current system.

Jeff D said...

I have to say that I totally think it is in your right not to allow some things to appear on your websites. It's not like you are taking something off someone else's server. You are just not linking to ad. It's not even like you are not crawling their site. It's only the ad.

You are completely in your rights. However, searchers and consumers are the ones who decide whether such an action means that they don't trust you anymore, taking their search business elsewhere.

I don't think that anyone will care or notice that you are filtering ads. I am almost glad you are exercising your right to do what you feel is right.

Thanks! said...

WHAT is meant by PERSONAL LIFE????

We are talking about the next leader of the free world.

Someone who will replace Supreme Court justices that will be there for DECADES!

Someone who has the power to get us involved in another long and expensive war where thousands may die

You have no private life, and people are free to express whatever they feel is valid about you.

It is not whether their private lives are attacked - it is about whether the statements are valid and what effects their personal habits and tendencies could have on their decision making biases.

Google has no right to stand in the way of free expression

Ray said...

Cracking up at the Commissioner Gordon references ... since (a) crime rates are almost assuredly up under his tenure and (b) he had an affair.

Very clever! Although I'm not 100% sure that Gotham City Police Commissioner is an elected position.

))nerd alert((

Michael said...

I believe that you're not following your own rules regarding political ads on Google.

I just saw a website [] advertized on google that seems to offer personal attacks on Barack Obama.

Please do the right thing and remove political ads like this. Thank you.


Rosemary West said...

In view of what just happened with the Prop 8 ads, it's time for Google to revise this policy, and, in general, the methods by which webmasters can control what kind of content they receive. We have counted on Google to provide us with context-appropriate ads. For many websites, political and religious messages are never appropriate. We should be able to generically block certain categories of advertising.