Google to lift ban on political ads referencing coronavirus

Google to lift ban on political ads referencing coronavirus
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Google is lifting the ban on coronavirus-related advertising on its platform after facing pushback from Democrats, according to A Google memo obtained by The Hill. 

Google will first start by allowing ads from “government entities, hospitals, medical providers, and NGOS who want to get relevant information out to the public,” Google head of industry Mark Beatty told clients in the memo Thursday.

Google will then make changes to allow political organizations to run ads related to COVID-19.

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“We’re planning to allow other advertisers, including political organizations, to run ads related to COVID-19. We will have more information to share on this in the next few days,” Beaty wrote in the email to clients. 

The memo was first reported by Axios

A spokesperson for Google confirmed to The Hill that the company is “looking at ways to support limited COVID-19-related ads” from the groups mentioned in the memo. 

“We have been broadly blocking ads related to coronavirus since January under our sensitive events policy. This policy was designed to protect users and block ads that try to capitalize on short-term events like natural disasters,” the spokesperson added. “As the COVID-19 situation evolves, we’ve been adjusting our enforcement to ensure that we are protecting users while prioritizing critical information.”

Google had decided to ban most nongovernmental ads related to the coronavirus pandemic in an effort to fight the spread of misinformation. 

The decision to relax the restriction comes after Protocol reported on Tuesday that Democrats have claimed the ad restrictions would allow the Trump administration to promote its response to the pandemic while denying Democrats the ability to run ads that criticize the administration's handling of the pandemic.  

This report was updated at 3:18 p.m.