Google unveils steps to boost transparency in political ads ahead of Indian elections

Google unveils steps to boost transparency in political ads ahead of Indian elections
Photo Credit: Photo Credit: Reuters
22 Jan, 2019

Google announced on Tuesday that it will be launching a searchable Political Ads Library ahead of the Lok Sabha elections to bring accountability to election advertising. Google will also launch an India-specific Political Advertising Transparency Report, which provides information on who is purchasing election ads on Google platforms and how much money is being spent. Both services will go live in March 2019.

The move comes a few days after social media platform Facebook Inc. said that it would extend its political advertising rules and tools for curbing election interference to India, Nigeria, Ukraine and European Union ahead of elections in these geographies.

In its statement, Google said that it has updated its election ads policy for India, which requires advertisers to provide a pre-certificate issued by the Election Commission of India or ECI-authorised personnel for each election ad they would like to run. Google will also verify the identity of the advertiser on its platform, starting 14 February. This is similar to Facebook’s move to verify the identity of the buyer of political ads against government documents.

Chetan Krishnaswamy, director of public policy at Google India, said in a statement, “In 2019, over 850 million Indians are expected to cast their vote to elect the country’s next government. We’re thinking hard about elections and how we continue to support democratic processes in India and around the world. In line with this, we are bringing more transparency to election advertising online, and surfacing relevant information to help people better navigate the electoral process.” 

The moves by Google and Facebook come in the wake of US Senate Committee establishing that Russian government’s Internet Research Agency bought political ads across social media platforms using inauthentic accounts to promote presidential candidate Donald trump during US elections.