Senate Democrats urge Google to improve ad policies to combat election disinformation

Senate Democrats urge Google to improve ad policies to combat election disinformation
© Bonnie Cash

Senate Democrats on Monday urged Google to improve its ad policies regarding election disinformation and voter suppression, accusing the company of failing even to enforce its own “inadequate” policy. 

Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy Klobuchar Klobuchar offers tribute to her father, who died Wednesday The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Cheney poised to be ousted; Biden to host big meeting Senate panel deadlocks in vote on sweeping elections bill MORE (D-Minn.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerBiden signs executive order to improve federal cybersecurity Overnight Defense: Former Pentagon chief to testify about Capitol riot Wednesday | Senate Intelligence chairman wants Biden to review US Space Command move Wyden: Funding infrastructure with gas tax hike a 'big mistake' MORE (D-Va.) led the group of 11 senators in a letter that called on the tech giant to strengthen the enforcement of its policies regarding election-related disinformation, including rejecting all ads spreading election disinformation and stopping ad services on websites that spread false information. 

“Google continues to operate with a narrow and incomprehensive political ads policy that has major loopholes. It is also failing to enforce even this inadequate policy,” the senators wrote. “As a result, the company is profiting from ads that spread voting and election disinformation and helping disinformation sites profit from their lies. Our democracy deserves better.”


Google’s ad policy prohibits “making demonstrably false claims that could significantly undermine participation or trust in an electoral or democratic process,” according to a company update from last year. The update states that it is against the company’s policies for “any advertiser to make a false claim — whether it’s a claim about the price of a chair or a claim that you can vote by text message.”

Despite Google’s policy, the senators cited a study published by The Global Disinformation Index (GDI) in October that found Google services ads on 145 out of 200 websites GDI examines that publish disinformation. 

The letter also cites a report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) that found Google has placed ads on websites publishing disinformation that aimed at undermining elections. CCDH estimated that through placing ads on six websites publishing election disinformation, Google made about $1.6 million in annual revenue. 

The senators also questioned Google over its reported refusal to remove ads that promoted false information about mail-in ballots in battleground states, including Arizona and Georgia. 

The letter sent Monday is the latest action taken by lawmakers in calling for tech giants to clamp down on disinformation on their platforms. Democrats have long been urging Google, as well as social media giants Facebook and Twitter, to take further action to mitigate the spread of disinformation on their platforms. 

Monday’s letter was also signed by Democratic Sens. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenArmy secretary nominee concerned about 'unreasonable or unhelpful demands' on National Guard DC statehood bill picks up Senate holdout US is leaving, but Afghan women to fight on for freedoms MORE (N.H.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinSenate Democrats offer bill to scrap tax break for investment managers Senate Democrats push Biden over raising refugee cap House Dems to unveil drug pricing measure ahead of Biden package MORE (Wis.), Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoMore than 75 Asian, LGBTQ groups oppose anti-Asian crime bill Biden-McConnell cold war unlikely to end at White House If you want Julie Su at the DOL, don't point to her resume MORE (Hawaii), Chris CoonsChris Andrew CoonsBiden to go one-on-one with Manchin US, Iran signal possible breakthroughs in nuke talks How the United States can pass Civics 101 MORE (Del.), Jack ReedJack ReedBiden officials testify that white supremacists are greatest domestic security threat Overnight Defense: US fires 30 warning shots at Iranian boats | Kabul attack heightens fears of Afghan women's fates | Democratic Party leaders push Biden on rejoining Iran deal Overnight Defense: Former Navy secretary reportedly spent .4M on travel | Ex-Pentagon chief Miller to testify on Jan. 6 Capitol attack | Austin to deliver West Point commencement speech MORE (R.I.), Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinIf you want Julie Su at the DOL, don't point to her resume Senate Democrats push Biden over raising refugee cap Lawmakers react to guilty verdict in Chauvin murder trial: 'Our work is far from done' MORE (Calif.) and Cory BookerCory BookerPolice reform talks hit familiar stumbling block Almost 20 advocacy groups team up to pressure Congress to pass health care bill for immigrants Biden adds pressure to congressional talks with self-imposed deadlines MORE (N.J.), as well as Sen. Angus KingAngus KingDC statehood bill picks up Senate holdout Senate panel deadlocks in vote on sweeping elections bill Senate descends into hours-long fight over elections bill MORE (I-Maine). 

A spokesperson for Google was not immediately available for comment.