yesEmily BirnbaumNone
×

Get access to Protocol

Will be used in accordance with our Privacy Policy

I’m already a subscriber
Politics

Google revises COVID-19 ad ban after backlash

Democrats slammed Google for preventing them from criticizing President Trump's response to the crisis. The company said it will announce new policies about political ads in the coming days.

Moody Google Logo

Google changed its policy banning most non-governmental advertising related to COVID-19.

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Google on Thursday announced that it will soon allow political advertisers to begin running ads about coronavirus, walking back a stringent ban after facing pressure from Democrats who told Protocol it unfairly censored their speech about a pivotal election year issue.

The tech giant in a memo to advertisers on Thursday said it will allow some advertisements this week from "government entities, hospitals, medical providers and NGOs" who want to advertise about COVID-19, with guidance expected in the next few days for political advertisers specifically.

"As the COVID-19 situation evolves, we've been adjusting our enforcement to ensure that we are protecting users while prioritizing critical information," a Google spokesperson said in a statement to Protocol. "We are looking at ways to support limited COVID-19-related ads from hospitals, medical providers, government entities and NGOs."

"We also realize that COVID-19 is becoming an important part of everyday conversation, including a relevant topic in political discourse and for many advertisers in different sectors, and we're planning to allow more advertisers to run ads related to COVID-19 as soon as we're able to do so safely," the spokesperson added.

Patrick Stevenson, the chief mobilization officer of the Democratic National Committee, in a message to Protocol said, "It's obviously the right move — I don't know how they thought that was a tenable position," but he expressed frustration that the company did not lay out a more specific timeline for political advertisers.

The sweeping ban was criticized by Democratic strategists, who said it limited candidates and left-leaning nonprofits from speaking out about the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus outbreak, as Protocol reported on Thursday.

"I'm glad that Google is listening to their Democratic clients and the public at large and changing their policies to provide a more level playing field," said Mark Jablonowski, the chief technology officer and managing partner of DSPolitical, a digital ad firm that works with Democratic campaigns and progressive causes.

"We look forward to hearing more details and understanding the timeline for the rollout of these policy changes," he said.

Staffers of several Democratic nonprofits and digital ad firms raised concerns directly with Google this week after they were prevented from using Google's ad tools to spread messages related to coronavirus.

Since the beginning of February, the company had only allowed ads from government agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and trusted health bodies like the World Health Organization.

Google told Protocol on Wednesday that it was evaluating that policy on an ongoing basis.

The outcry to the ban was more muted among Republican strategists and campaigns, although it applied equally to Republicans and the Trump campaign as well. There has so far been a hesitancy among some operatives to engage in paid content around coronavirus at all because it is a sensitive and fast-moving situation that has created unprecedented hardships for millions of Americans.

"I think as a matter of strategy you shouldn't be using terms like 'coronavirus' and 'COVID-19' to market to voters right now," Eric Wilson, a Republican digital strategist, said Thursday.

The struggle between campaigns and Google over the coronavirus-related political ads is the latest in an ongoing controversy over how political ads are handled by big tech companies.

Jablonowski said he is "hopeful that maybe they will examine some of the other policies that have adversely impacted Democratic advertisers on the Google platforms over the past year." And Wilson, the Republican strategist, echoed his sentiments, calling the targeting limitations "problematic."

This post has been update throughout. The headline has been changed to reflect that the ad ban has not been completely reversed.

People

Google’s trying to build a more inclusive, less chaotic future of work

Javier Soltero, the VP of Workspace at Google, said time management is everything.

With everyone working in new places, Google believes time management is everything.

Image: Google

Javier Soltero was still pretty new to the G Suite team when the pandemic hit. Pretty quickly, everything about Google's hugely popular suite of work tools seemed to change. (It's not even called G Suite anymore, but rather Workspace.) And Soltero had to both guide his team through a new way of working and help them build the tools to guide billions of Workspace users.

This week, Soltero and his team announced a number of new Workspace features designed to help people manage their time, collaborate and get stuff done more effectively. It offered new tools for frontline workers to communicate better, more hardware for hybrid meetings, lots of Assistant and Calendar features to make planning easier and a picture-in-picture mode so people could be on Meet calls without really having to pay attention.

Keep Reading Show less
David Pierce

David Pierce ( @pierce) is Protocol's editor at large. Prior to joining Protocol, he was a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, a senior writer with Wired, and deputy editor at The Verge. He owns all the phones.

Sponsored Content

The future of computing at the edge: an interview with Intel’s Tom Lantzsch

An interview with Tom Lantzsch, SVP and GM, Internet of Things Group at Intel

An interview with Tom Lantzsch

Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Internet of Things Group (IoT) at Intel Corporation

Edge computing had been on the rise in the last 18 months – and accelerated amid the need for new applications to solve challenges created by the Covid-19 pandemic. Tom Lantzsch, Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Internet of Things Group (IoT) at Intel Corp., thinks there are more innovations to come – and wants technology leaders to think equally about data and the algorithms as critical differentiators.

In his role at Intel, Lantzsch leads the worldwide group of solutions architects across IoT market segments, including retail, banking, hospitality, education, industrial, transportation, smart cities and healthcare. And he's seen first-hand how artificial intelligence run at the edge can have a big impact on customers' success.

Protocol sat down with Lantzsch to talk about the challenges faced by companies seeking to move from the cloud to the edge; some of the surprising ways that Intel has found to help customers and the next big breakthrough in this space.

What are the biggest trends you are seeing with edge computing and IoT?

A few years ago, there was a notion that the edge was going to be a simplistic model, where we were going to have everything connected up into the cloud and all the compute was going to happen in the cloud. At Intel, we had a bit of a contrarian view. We thought much of the interesting compute was going to happen closer to where data was created. And we believed, at that time, that camera technology was going to be the driving force – that just the sheer amount of content that was created would be overwhelming to ship to the cloud – so we'd have to do compute at the edge. A few years later – that hypothesis is in action and we're seeing edge compute happen in a big way.

Keep Reading Show less
Saul Hudson
Saul Hudson has a deep knowledge of creating brand voice identity, especially in understanding and targeting messages in cutting-edge technologies. He enjoys commissioning, editing, writing, and business development, in helping companies to build passionate audiences and accelerate their growth. Hudson has reported from more than 30 countries, from war zones to boardrooms to presidential palaces. He has led multinational, multi-lingual teams and managed operations for hundreds of journalists. Hudson is a Managing Partner at Angle42, a strategic communications consultancy.
Power

Google wants to help you get a life

Digital car windows, curved AR glasses, automatic presentations and other patents from Big Tech.

A new patent from Google offers a few suggestions.

Image: USPTO

Another week has come to pass, meaning it's time again for Big Tech patents! You've hopefully been busy reading all the new Manual Series stories that have come out this week and are now looking forward to hearing what comes after what comes next. Google wants to get rid of your double-chin selfie videos and find things for you as you sit bored at home; Apple wants to bring translucent displays to car windows; and Microsoft is exploring how much you can stress out a virtual assistant.

And remember: The big tech companies file all kinds of crazy patents for things, and though most never amount to anything, some end up defining the future.

Keep Reading Show less
Mike Murphy

Mike Murphy ( @mcwm) is the director of special projects at Protocol, focusing on the industries being rapidly upended by technology and the companies disrupting incumbents. Previously, Mike was the technology editor at Quartz, where he frequently wrote on robotics, artificial intelligence, and consumer electronics.

Transforming 2021

Blockchain, QR codes and your phone: the race to build vaccine passports

Digital verification systems could give people the freedom to work and travel. Here's how they could actually happen.

One day, you might not need to carry that physical passport around, either.

Photo: CommonPass

There will come a time, hopefully in the near future, when you'll feel comfortable getting on a plane again. You might even stop at the lounge at the airport, head to the regional office when you land and maybe even see a concert that evening. This seemingly distant reality will depend upon vaccine rollouts continuing on schedule, an open-sourced digital verification system and, amazingly, the blockchain.

Several countries around the world have begun to prepare for what comes after vaccinations. Swaths of the population will be vaccinated before others, but that hasn't stopped industries decimated by the pandemic from pioneering ways to get some people back to work and play. One of the most promising efforts is the idea of a "vaccine passport," which would allow individuals to show proof that they've been vaccinated against COVID-19 in a way that could be verified by businesses to allow them to travel, work or relax in public without a great fear of spreading the virus.

Keep Reading Show less
Mike Murphy

Mike Murphy ( @mcwm) is the director of special projects at Protocol, focusing on the industries being rapidly upended by technology and the companies disrupting incumbents. Previously, Mike was the technology editor at Quartz, where he frequently wrote on robotics, artificial intelligence, and consumer electronics.

People

Citizen’s plan to keep people safe (and beat COVID-19) with an app

Citizen CEO Andrew Frame talks privacy, safety, coronavirus and the future of the neighborhood watch.

Citizen added COVID-19 tracking to its app over the summer — but its bigger plans got derailed.

Photo: Citizen

Citizen is an app built on the idea that transparency is a good thing. It's the place users — more than 7 million of them, in 28 cities with many more to come soon — can find out when there's a crime, a protest or an incident of any kind nearby. (Just yesterday, it alerted me, along with 17,900 residents of Washington, D.C., that it was about to get very windy. It did indeed get windy.) Users can stream or upload video of what's going on, locals can chat about the latest incidents and everyone's a little safer at the end of the day knowing what's happening in their city.

At least, that's how CEO Andrew Frame sees it. Critics of Citizen say the app is creating hordes of voyeurs, incentivizing people to run into dangerous situations just to grab a video, and encouraging racial profiling and other problematic behaviors all under the guise of whatever "safety" means. They say the app promotes paranoia, alerting users to things that they don't actually need to know about. (That the app was originally called "Vigilante" doesn't help its case.)

Keep Reading Show less
David Pierce

David Pierce ( @pierce) is Protocol's editor at large. Prior to joining Protocol, he was a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, a senior writer with Wired, and deputy editor at The Verge. He owns all the phones.

Latest Stories