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Google to begin lifting coronavirus ad ban

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Democrats feared the policy bolstered the White House

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Google will start to lift its ban on coronavirus-related advertising this week after its policy caught fire from Democratic lawmakers who feared it may bolster misinformation from the White House.

Over the next few days, Google will begin to allow “government entities, hospitals, medical providers, and NGOs” to run ads related to the novel coronavirus on its platforms. Since February, most nongovernmental advertisers have been barred from running ads related to the COVID-19 pandemic to stifle organizations seeking to spread misinformation or profiteer off of the panic.

But according to Protocol, Democrats grew concerned that the broad ban allowed the Trump White House to boost its response to the pandemic but prohibited Democrats from criticizing it.

“This policy was designed to protect users and block ads that try to capitalize on short-term events like natural disasters,” a Google spokesperson told The Verge. “Now, we are looking at ways to support limited COVID-19-related ads from hospitals, medical providers, government entities, and NGOs.”

In the coming days, Google will expand the pool of advertisers allowed to run ads. In an email obtained by The Verge, Google head of industry Mark Beatty told advertisers, “We’re planning to allow other advertisers, including political organizations, to run ads related to COVID-19. We will have more information to share on this in the next few days.”