Google announced that it has removed ads promoting false information and scams relating to voting.
The search giant said it took the action Monday, after being informed about a new analysis from a nonprofit tech-industry watchdog group.
The Tech Transparency Project used a clean instance of the Chrome browser to search Google for “absentee ballot,” “early voting,” “voter registration,” “vote by mail,” “register to vote,” “apply to vote,” “how to vote,” “absentee ballot application,” “where is my polling place,” “find polling place,” and “vote absentee.”
TTP then clicked through all of the results associated with each phrase and recorded the ads served alongside them.
The posted results: Nearly a third of the ads — 189 out of 613 —directed users to sites "that try to extract personal information for marketing purposes, install deceptive browser extensions, or bombard people with misleading or useless ads."
“The first advertisement in a Google search for 'register to vote,' for example, directed users to a website that seeks exorbitant fees to process voter registration forms,” reports TTP. “The site encourages users to hand over personal information, credit card data, and up to $129 to complete the task. No government agency in the United States charges for voter registration.”
“With the 2020 election, Google has pledged to provide voters with 'authoritative and objective information' and 'tackle abuse on our platforms and help you navigate the democratic process before you head to the ballot box on November 3'," TTP wrote, alluding to Google’s implementation in February of policies prohibiting deceptive practices and abuse relating to voting and the elections, including voter suppression and misrepresentation in all Google products, including Google Ads, YouTube or Google Play. “The company has also promoted voter registration tools and restricted microtargeting by political ads. But Google hasn’t protected voters from the scam ads that it regularly serves up in search results.”
"We are committed to protecting users from abuse on our platforms, especially when it comes to information about elections,” Google said in a statement. “We have strict policies in place to protect users from false information about voting procedures, and when we find ads that violate our policies and present harm to users, we remove them and block advertisers from running similar ads in the future.”