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Great Britain

Google to ban certain ads in attempt to protect democracy amid misinformation campaigns

Google is to ban a range of different kinds of ads as it attempts to stop people using it to undermine democracy.

The site will stop people from promoting "demonstrably false claims" as well as using its tools to precisely target people on their political affiliation and other information, it said.

Google is just the latest tech company to make changes to its ad policies in response to widespread outcry about the way sponsored posts are being used to promote false stories, misinformation and questionable claims.

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The tech giant said that the changes would be implemented in order to improve voter confidence in digital political advertising and international electoral processes.

In a blogpost, Google Ads executive Scott Spencer, said that the company was "clarifying" its advertising policies to avoid material that could "significantly undermine participation or trust in the democratic process" being posted on its platforms.

"We're proud that people around the world use Google to find relevant information about elections," he said.

"But given recent concerns and debates about political advertising, and the importance of shared trust in the democratic process, we want to improve voters' confidence in the political ads they may see on our ad platforms.

"While we've never offered granular microtargeting of election ads, we believe there's more we can do to further promote increased visibility of election ads.

"That's why we're limiting election ads audience targeting to the following general categories: age, gender, and general location (postal code level)."

Google says that it will begin enforcing the changes in the UK "within a week," in time for the General Election on December 12.

The new policies would apply to all advertisers and content types including "deep fakes" (doctored or manipulated media), misleading claims about the census process, and ads making "demonstrably false claims".

"Whether you're running for office or selling office furniture, we apply the same ads policies to everyone; there are no carve-outs," said Mr Spencer.

"It's against our 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, that election day is postponed, or that a candidate has died."

He added that the company recognised that not all political claims could be adjudicated, but that the company would take appropriate action to preserve "robust political dialogue."

Google is the latest tech company to respond to growing scrutiny over online political advertising.

Twitter recently launched a new tool on its platforms that enables people to report deliberately misleading details about the voting process, weeks after announcing a ban on political adverts.

Rival social media firm Facebook has faced repeated calls to ban all political advertising after a number of misleading ads were taken down from the platform.

Facebook admitted it is unable to track all political adverts on its platforms.

Additional reporting by Press Association

Social media is an increasingly important battle ground in elections - and home to many questionable claims pumped out by all sides. If social media sites won't investigate the truth of divisive advertising, we will. Please send any political Facebook advertising you receive to [email protected], and we will catalogue and investigate it. Read more here.

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