Trump campaign, RNC blast Google political ads policy as ‘voter suppression’

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President Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign and the Republican party’s top campaign arms on Tuesday blasted Google for limiting their ability to micro-target political advertisements.

The statement from the Trump campaign, Republican National Committee (RNC), National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), and National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) comes days after Google announced that it will be placing new limitations around advertisements from politicians or campaigns on its powerful ads platform. 

The Republicans’ statement marked a rare bipartisan point of agreement in a divided Washington: The Democrats’ national campaign committees issued a similar statement just last week, taking Google to task over its new political ad rules.

“Google’s latest arbitrary rule changes are a blatant attempt to suppress voter information, knowledge, and engagement in the 2020 election,” the Trump campaign, RNC, NRSC and NRCC said in the statement. “These actions will lead directly to suppressing voter turnout.” 

Google, which controls about 43 percent of the online advertising market, announced earlier this month that it will no longer allow advertisers to micro-target political ads using real-world voter information, significantly paring down political advertisers’ ability to get their messages in front of the audiences they want. 

The joint federal fundraising committee consisting of the Trump campaign and the RNC, the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, has spent more than $8 million advertising on Google since last May, according to Google’s ads archive. 

In the statement, the Republicans claimed the clampdown on political ads will “disproportionately impact both the Trump operation and all of the Republican candidates and organizations that derive strength from it.” 

The Democrats’ campaign arms have expressed a similar concern, and last week asked Google to “reconsider” its decision to restrict political ads. 

A Google spokesperson acknowledged that “political campaign strategists on both sides of the aisle have raised concerns about how our changes may alter their targeting strategies.” 

“But 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,” the spokesperson said. 

Facebook is mulling changes to political ads on its own platform, and the escalating pressure campaign from the top campaign arms in the country underlines the kind of scrutiny it could face over any changes.

Earlier this month, Google announced it will only allow political advertisers, like campaigns and politicians, to target their advertisements based on age, gender and ZIP code. The tech giant will no longer allow political ads to target users based on their political leanings or other more granular details. But likely the most disruptive change is that advertisers will no longer be allowed to combine voter lists with Google’s trove of information on what users do online, a powerful combination that enabled unprecedented levels of targeting.

Twitter, on the other hand, took a stronger position when it announced in November that it will no longer host advertisements from politicians or campaigns at all, claiming it no longer wants to sour political discourse by allowing individuals to “pay for reach.” 

The Republicans’ statement on Tuesday dismissed Twitter’s decision, pointing out it is not the go-to advertising platform for political advertisers.

“Much has been made of Twitter’s equally concerning decision to ban political ads and suppress speech, but because advertising on that platform is ineffective and only a tiny percentage of Americans use Twitter, their impact is insignificant,” the statement said. “Google, however, is a serious platform with very deep reach across the entire country.” 

Facebook and Google dominate the digital advertising market, together accounting for 56.8 percent of advertisements placed online, according to eMarketer

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