Google takes action against ads that lead people to malicious websites when they search for voting information. The company announced on Monday that it removed several search ads that illegally tricked users into paying up to $ 129 for voter registration, collected their personal information, including credit card information, and installed misleading add-ons on their computers .
The shutdown comes after a report by the Tech Transparency Project, a nonprofit watchdog that found that almost a third of the more than 600 voting search ads on Google were manipulative. The ads that appear above the other place in the search results above appeared when general voting terms such as "register to vote", "vote by email" and "where is my polling station?" Were looked up.
A Google spokesman told Reuters that the company is first investigating how these ads went through the approval process, which includes a manual review. "We have strict policies in place to protect users from incorrect voting information. If we find ads that violate our policies and harm users, we remove them and prevent advertisers from showing similar ads in the future," added the statement added.
Most of the ads the TTP found disguised themselves as official information centers. Such an ad, hosted by a company called PrivacyWall, charged users $ 129 for "same day processing" to register for the vote. Another called RegisterMyVote tried to collect a lot of personal data for marketing purposes.
Because Google ads now use the same font and color scheme as organic search results, it's also much more difficult for users to distinguish between them. “Such advertisements could suppress voters. Users who are looking for electoral guidelines and are instead on manipulative or confusing websites may give up looking for the information they need, ”the nonprofit wrote in a blog post.
At the beginning of February this year, Google promised to offer voters "high-quality, relevant information" in its search engine, along with several other initiatives for the 2020 presidential election. In addition, political organizations can no longer target citizens based on their online activities when they buy advertising space on Google and YouTube.