In the wake of the 2016 campaign and Russian interference in US elections, social media companies have been struggling with how to handle political ads. Conservatives grow suspicious that their ad content has been quietly censored or unfairly banned.
Their concerns are clearly justified.
Advertising on social media has come under intense scrutiny due to the unique ability to target individuals that meet certain criteria with highly specific messages at lightning speed. Those messages could be true, misleading, or false and many worry that there’s not enough oversight. This trend could be a recipe for disaster if left unchecked.
As a result, Twitter recently announced a ban on all political advertising. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey stated:
“This is about paying for reach and paying to increase the reach of political speech has significant ramifications that today’s democratic infrastructure may not be prepared to handle. It’s worth stepping back in order to address.”
Facebook has taken a very different approach by saying they will not remove political ads or fact check them, even if they have inaccuracies. Mike Zuckerberg believes that Facebook users should be able to make up their own minds regarding political advertisements.
But what about Google and its popular video platform YouTube?
It appears that Google is going to take a much more hands-on approach and ban political ads it subjectively deems to be inaccurate.
YouTube Takes Down Over 300 Trump Ads
YouTube, with nearly 2 billion users, generated 84% of Google’s revenue in the third quarter of 2019 through ads.
Unlike Twitter and Facebook, YouTube remained quiet about its practice of banning political speech and advertisements that may or may not have violated their terms of service. That silence was broken in early November. In a new policy statement, YouTube revealed they would no longer accept advertisements that target specific voters.
In a recent 60 Minutes episode, the news outlet reported a shocking discovery. Its review of YouTube’s archive showed that 300 Trump ads were taken down, most of which aired last summer. Political ads that are shown on Google sites and YouTube are kept in an archive, which is searchable to anyone who wants to take the time to go through it.
When asked by 60 Minutes correspondent Leslie Stahl if any of Trump’s ads had been taken down, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki acknowledged that there were “ads of President Trump that were not approved to run on Google or YouTube.”
Wojcicki wouldn’t say what specific policy the Trump campaign may have violated. Nor does the archive provide a reason for why ads were removed.
60 Minutes elaborated and said that “We found very little transparency in the transparency report.”
Is Google Targeting Trump and Conservatives?
Alas, the censorship of the Right has begun.
Given the amount of attention being paid to censorship, references to the First Amendment, and national security issues that were revealed during the 2016 election, why haven’t the tech giants thought this through better?
Tech giants claim they are not trying to censor conservative voices or Trump’s campaign. Yet, it’s no secret that the big social media tech company employees have been caught admitting to blatant censorship, bias, and political targeting of conservatives.
A Pew Research Center study in June 2018 found that “seven-in-ten Americans think it likely that social media companies intentionally censor political views they find objectionable.”
If YouTube is not willing to be transparent about what violations were committed in its transparency report, then how can the public trust their given reasons for banning Trump campaign ads? Should the public believe YouTube just because it created a transparency report and then said, “trust us”?
Of course not, but these giant tech companies expect you to do just that.
By Don Purdum, Freelance Contributor
Copyright 2019, UnitedVoice.com