Democrats Being Blocked From Advertising On Trump's Failed COVID-19 Response Due To Content Moderation Rules

from the oh-fun dept

Here we go again: content moderation at scale is impossible to do well -- and, as we've discussed, things are especially tricky when it comes to content moderation and political advertising. Now, when you mix into that content moderation to try to stop disinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic and you run up against... politicians facing blocks in trying to advertise about Trump's leadership failures in response to the pandemic:

Prominent Democratic PACs in recent days have funneled millions of dollars into television ads accusing Trump of mishandling the coronavirus crisis. But staffers of several Democratic nonprofits and digital ad firms realized this week that they would not be able to use Google's dominant ad tools to spread true information about President Trump's handling of the outbreak on YouTube and other Google platforms. The company only allows PSA-style ads from government agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and trusted health bodies like the World Health Organization. Multiple Democratic and progressive strategists were rebuked when they tried to place Google ads criticizing the Trump administration's response to coronavirus, officials within the firms told Protocol.

That anti-conservative bias sure is a pain, eh?

This wasn't just a one-off. Apparently other politicians have also been told they can't use Google's ad platform for those ads either:

One Democratic strategist said his digital firm had already gone live in recent days with several ad campaigns related to coronavirus on Facebook, which allows most political ads about the disease. "As we were getting ready to start broadening [the ad campaign] into Google, we reached out to Google to clarify what their rules were going to be," said one Democratic strategist who requested anonymity in order to maintain his relationship with Google. A Google ad representative told them they would not be able to place the ads.

But, of course, since federal government agencies are allowed to advertise on the platform, and this administration appears to view the entire apparatus of the federal government as solely part and parcel of the Trump re-election campaign, that basically means that Trump gets free reign over Google ads:

The Trump campaign and Republicans across the country also are not allowed to run advertisements right now. But the democratic strategists argue that the CDC and White House's messaging, which are permitted by Google, fall under Trump's purview.

"For Google to basically say that the Trump administration is the only entity that is allowed to talk about the most important issue in politics really puts their thumb on the scale of the incumbent president and against anyone who is really looking to challenge him," said Eli Kaplan, a founding partner of Rising Tide Interactive, a digital marketing firm for Democratic political organizations and progressive nonprofits.

This isn't to criticize Google, but to again highlight the straight up impossibility of the situation. More specifically, it's not hard to follow the very logical and reasonable thought process that leads to these rules being put in place. It wanted to limit people exploiting COVID-related panic for commercial reasons, and thus chose to limit COVID-related ads to government entities only. But, the issue comes down to distinguishing political ads from commercial ads, and it's easy (if you're not having to make that distinction) to just say that you'll allow the political ads, but not "commercial" ads, but suddenly that opens up a ton of other questions that all of the platforms have been dealing with regarding moderation of political ads: what is a political ad exactly? In some cases, it's more obvious, but in many cases, it's a big gray area.

This isn't about bias and it isn't about malice. It's about the simple fact that if you do content moderation, almost every "policy" you put in place will come back to bite you when you realize that, in practice, something will happen that seems insane even when you have a perfectly logical policy in place.

Filed Under: ads, content moderation, content moderation at scale, covid-19, democrats, political ads
Companies: google


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Apr 2020 @ 12:37pm

    anyone surprised? let's face it, Trump is such an egotistical person, he cant bear criticism and as soon as someone tries to speak the truth about him or what he's done/doing, he immediately starts attacking with the biggest load of bullshit possible!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Apr 2020 @ 12:40pm

    [Family 1 -of the 5 Families]: Hold on one sec... Keep the masses entertained while I reset the global markets.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 1 Apr 2020 @ 1:14pm

    It wanted to limit people exploiting COVID-related panic for commercial reasons, and thus chose to limit COVID-related ads to government entities only. But, the issue comes down to

    …whether the government entities are peddling dis- and misinformation on behalf of an narcissistic egomaniac whose pettiness and spite and thirst for (holding onto) power has resulted in, and will continue to result in, American coronavirus deaths.

    Okay so that’s not the main issue at hand but it should damn well be right near the top.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Apr 2020 @ 3:24pm

    Considering how much mainstream news has been flat out LYING, these excuses are a joke in general. Trump says one thing, and mainstream news goes and says Trump said something completely different. What are these so-called journalists basing their B.S. on? They are flat out lying. When Trump just says something the left had already said, once Trump says it, it's not bad, wrong, etc, etc. It's a joke.

    While the Democrats were wasting all their time on Orange Man Bad and lets Impeach over zero impeachable crimes. Trump had already started a Taskforce back in late January. Trump then suspended travel in/out of China, which he was then called RACIST for doing do. As trump is suspending flights from Europe, we have the Mayor of N.Y. out there saying there's nothing to worry about. Go to the Bars, and the Movies, etc. He's getting a pass.

    What Universe are we living in? China has been flat out lying this whole time, and Mainstream news is acting like it's all facts?!?!?! Really? As they are buying up tons of supplies in other countries back in January and Febuary, all the while saying it's not that bad. Can't transmit it to others, etc, etc. W.H.O. was saying the same crap. Maybe if the Truth was put out there, Trump could have responded a little differently.

    Be he also can t go and act like this is the end of the world, lets all PANIC. Gets attacked for that. Now says 100,000-200,00 could die from this and now is attacked for that. These are not journalist, they are leftist commentators. What happened to reporting the facts, Not your TDS views?

    This is also why people are trying to shut up his LIVE press conferences. Because people can actually hear why he says in whole. Not a butchered up, made up crap they are telling people. They are reporting so many things that sound BAD, yet Trump NEVER said it!!!! That is a FACT!!! It's really pretty disgusting want they are doing and s many are eating up this propaganda. Trump has his flaws just like everyone. Thing congress, in general, is any better? No!

    If y ou can't see it by now, you just have a really bad case of TDS. More and more Democrats are seeing what is going on and it's pissing them off also and they're now going to vote for Trump. Long, Long time Democrats!!! Open your eyes!! Watch what Trump says LIVE, then see what they write after.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Apr 2020 @ 7:56am

    As usual

    Every talking head pushing "solutions" for "internet problems" is fucking clueless. They feared FUD from internet advertising and are now shocked that they are blocked from advertising even the simplest of truths.

    What they really want is control and they are too fucking dishonest and clueless to realize how rules they push will bite them later.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    restless94110 (profile), 2 Apr 2020 @ 12:11pm

    Why

    So slanderous lying ads should not be blocked? Hmm. Ok. Why are all conservative ads being blocked as slanderous and fake? Even when they aren't? Not clear on your logic here.

    It seems to be: Lie about Trump and edit video to lie. That's immoral (or whatever you are calling it this week) blocking. But then put out conservative talking points, and that should be blocked because it hits too close to home?

    I guess in America Free Speech for me but not for thee is your motto.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 2 Apr 2020 @ 4:34pm

      Why are all conservative ads being blocked as slanderous and fake? Even when they aren't?

      1. [citation needed] in re: “all conservative ads [are] being blocked”

      2. Conservatives wouldn’t have to worry about their ads blocked for being “slanderous and fake” if they didn’t make such ads in the first place.

      Lie about Trump and edit video to lie. That's immoral (or whatever you are calling it this week) blocking.

      Yes, it is. I hate the motherfucker with every last microfiber of my being. But lying about him doesn’t help anything.

      But then put out conservative talking points, and that should be blocked because it hits too close to home?

      If the conservative talking points are mistruths, mis- or disinformation, or flat-out lies? Yes. And the same goes for talking points from liberals, progressives, and conservative Democrats like Joe Biden.

      Also: You may want to consider whether the issue you have is less about platforms moderating “conservative speech” and more about how you conflate speech that is more likely to be moderated with conservatives.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 3 Apr 2020 @ 12:01am

      Re: Why

      "Why are all conservative ads being blocked as slanderous and fake? Even when they aren't?"

      Point to an example of one that was blocked but not lying, please.

      "I guess in America Free Speech for me but not for thee is your motto."

      More like: we treat everything equally, but one side of the aisle seems to turn into whiny bitches the second they're called on their bullshit more than the others.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2020 @ 3:32am

      Re: Why

      Have you got your measles shot today? No, I don't mean the vaccine, I know you're too smart to get that, I mean an actual shot of measles so you can show us how your Alex Jones-certified supplements work.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2020 @ 3:46pm

      Re: Why

      Also you:

      "You do not moderate speech in the United States in accordance with the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Moderating is censorship. Censorship is un-American.

      There you go. Fixed it for ya."

      Source: https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20200331/17242244208/how-do-you-moderate-covid-19-misinformation-w hen-coming-official-sources.shtml#c308

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Apr 2020 @ 6:51pm

    Plenty of blame to spread around

    The current administration made have made the mortal blow to the CDC, but it looks like the patient was already on hospice care. A decade plus of under funding will do that. Read the link for more information.

    https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/v748x4/a-pandemic-expert-tells-us-why-she-was-so-wro ng-about-coronavirus

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Nicolas (profile), 3 Apr 2020 @ 5:57am

    The self-righteous Left, hoist by its own petard. True believers always assume they are the only ones ascending to heaven.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2020 @ 11:43am

    Well, your own bias is quite evident:
    "Prominent Democratic PACs in recent days have funneled millions of dollars into television ads accusing Trump of mishandling the coronavirus crisis. But staffers of several Democratic nonprofits and digital ad firms realized this week that they would not be able to use Google's dominant ad tools to spread true information"

    "True information" lol.

    Please for the sake of humanity, stop sim-representing "true" and "truth" as non-biased for the benefit of "Escape Pod Israel" infused narratives. and non-objective, non-biased-"realities".

    All of your work indicates bias towards religious-tribalist narratives, all of those, manipulating truth and facts.

    Non-objective, much?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    tz1 (profile), 5 Apr 2020 @ 5:12pm

    They won't allow any Covid-Deniers? From the time I was a teenager, I learned that the person wishing to squelch speech and debate was most often wrong and didn't have any rational argument or good evidence. It is one of the reasons I'm skeptical about whatever "Climate Change" is supposed to be. I'll be heading to Glacier National Park to see the sites now that since it is 2020, they all have melted away. Tim Pool notes this is backfiring on the SJW left, as their crazies are still on Twitter, but even the most polite and rational rightwing people have been banned. The thing about liberty and subsidiarity (e.g. Federalism where Salt Lake City and San Francisco can have very different cultures and people can vote with their feet) is it allows everyone to coexist, perhaps at opposite sides of mountain ranges. And every time the "ring of power" is used, it ends up backfiring. You want an imperial judiciary and activist court? Well, Trump might end up appointing most of the Judges. Never give authority that you don't assume that tomorrow will be wielded by someone who is your worst enemy, hates you, and wants to destroy you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 6 Apr 2020 @ 12:03am

      Re:

      "They won't allow any Covid-Deniers?"

      You have to be a special kind of moron to be denying the facts about that disease at this point, and misinformation is causing people to literally die from it, either directly or indirectly due to actions taken as a direct result of the misinformation.

      "It is one of the reasons I'm skeptical about whatever "Climate Change" is supposed to be"

      Then, you're an idiot. The only people who have been questioning that for the last 3 decades have been paid oil industry shills. The actual science has not been in question to any realistic degree since at least the 1970s, when action could have best been taken to avoid the current problems associated with it.

      "but even the most polite and rational rightwing people have been banned"

      Name one who fits into that category. Also, if your standard of reasonable discord and a good news source is Twitter, you've already failed.

      "Never give authority that you don't assume that tomorrow will be wielded by someone who is your worst enemy, hates you, and wants to destroy you."

      Better a power to humans that can be repealed than power given to a pandemic that Trump has already caused to sentence thousands of Americans to death.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 6 Apr 2020 @ 2:52am

        Re: Re:

        "Then, you're an idiot. The only people who have been questioning that for the last 3 decades have been paid oil industry shills."

        As a matter of fact, many major oil companies today are openly acknowledging global warming as being a "massive threat".

        Some of Big Oil, such as Shell and BP, have been retooling their business to wind and solar in the expectation of a green energy boom. Some others, such as Chevron, have not, doubling down on the idea that "green energy" will fall flat, positioning themselves to dominate a new resurgent fossil fuel market.

        So it's not just the experts and greenpeace talking about global warming anymore. Over half of Big Oil is similarly on board, as is quite a lot of the current heavy industry you'd expect to be on the climate change denier barricades.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 6 Apr 2020 @ 4:07am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "As a matter of fact, many major oil companies today are openly acknowledging global warming as being a "massive threat"."

          That is true, but largely because there's no denying the facts now. Temperatures have been climbing steadily and the predicted increases in things like regularity and severity of storms are happening. Those companies have largely realised that they're better off putting effort into alternate energy sources than waiting until government forces them to do it. It's just a shame that it's a little too late to get the best results.

          So, kudos to them for finally changing their attitude, but we're still about 3 decades behind where we should be with green tech as a direct result of their actions.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.