Google’s new political advertising policy was a surprising move that has Trump’s campaign saying it violates freedom of speech and is direct retaliation for President Trump’s victory.
What Google has done is to significantly limit a marketing tactic called microtargeted social media ads that are commonly used by most political campaigns, especially Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. These political ads are directed at very specific groups of people online, and Trump’s campaign did a tremendous job with this tactic. His campaign manager, Brad Parscale, believes the change in Google’s policy is payback for President Trump’s victory.
“It is a removal of free speech. It is a voter suppression activity,” Parscale said in an interview with Fox News. “2016 freaked them out because I used a whole bunch of liberal platforms to do it. I guarantee you, this decision came from another room full of people going, ‘Oh my God, we’ve got to stop them. They’re going to win again in a landslide, and we can’t be part of it.’”
Google, which happens to own YouTube, has plans to begin its new regulations in January which will only allow political advertisers to target voters using age, gender and zip code. They will no longer be able to direct specific ads aimed at users based on their political affiliations or public voter record — even if those users have given permission for the campaign to contact them.
According to Parscale, “It would almost be like [if] AT&T had all the lists of all the Trump supporters in America, and AT&T said, ‘Oh, you can’t dial their phones,’ I mean, it’s crazy.”
Many Democrats also dislike Google’s new policy because they believe it will end up hurting Democrats more than Republicans. In fact, 95 Democratic digital operatives and strategists signed a post on Medium arguing that if Google takes away their ability to focus ad dollars on unregistered voters, “Democratic organizations and campaigns are at a severe disadvantage.”
Google, however, said the need for the change in policy is due to a desire to improve voters’ confidence in political ads on its platforms.
“We want the ads we serve to be transparent and widely available so that many voices can debate issues openly,” the company said.
Parscale was asked which party is affected most by Google’s new policy, he said: “I think it hurts America. These are new tech ways of stopping connections. If I went on TV right now and said, ‘The telephone companies aren’t allowing me to call people,’ all heck would break loose. Right? It’s exactly what they did. They just did it with a different connection.”
Google indicated that it is aware that political operatives of both parties are upset, but said this in a statement: “We believe the balance we have struck — allowing political ads to remain on our platforms while limiting narrow targeting that can reduce the visibility of ads and trust in electoral processes — is the right one.”