Google Alphabet Inc. said on Monday it had eliminated search advertisements that paid users to check for voting information at high rates for registering voters or collected their personal data.
A Google spokeswoman said the company’s misrepresentation policy prohibited these advertisements that the non-profit watchdog Tech Transparency Project noticed while searching for words like “register to vote,” “vote by phone,” and “where my polling place is.”
In a report on Monday, Tech Transparency Project said that nearly a third of the more than 600 ads generated by its Google searches have taken users to sites that try to charge large fees for voter registration services, extract personal data for marketing purposes, install deceptive browser extensions or serve other misleading ads.
The study said that the first ad in a Google search for “register to vote” led users to a PrivacyWall site that paid $129 for voter registration’s “same-day processing.” U.S. voters do not have to pay to register for voting.
A Google spokeswoman said the company didn’t know how the advertisements got through its approval process, which uses an automated and manual review mix.
We have stringent policies in place to protect users from misinformation about voting procedures and when we find advertisements that breach our policies and threaten users, we delete them and prohibit advertisers from running similar advertising in the future,” the spokeswoman said.
“Many people will find it hard to differentiate Google ads from other advertising types because as of January, Google’s search ads display the same style face and color scheme as organic search results,” the TTP report said.
During the run-up to the US presidential election in November, social media firms and web outlets, including Facebook Inc and Twitter are under pressure to counter disinformation on their pages.
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