Google took five days to review several ads with misleading information about voting by mail before opting to approve them, The Washington Post reported. The ads were created by Protect My Vote— a group the Post refers to as “shadowy”— and appeared to target people in several US states, including Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, and Texas, showing up in response to searches for “mail-in voting.” One of the ads reads “think mail-in voting and absentee voting are the same. Think again! There are different safeguards for each,” a misleading and inaccurate claim.
Google ultimately declined to remove the ads. Spokeswoman Charlotte Smith told the Post “We have zero tolerance for ads that employ voter suppression tactics or undermine participation in elections. When we find those ads, we take them down.” Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Verge on Saturday.
According to the Post, Protect My Vote is associated with conservative advocacy organization FreedomWorks, which has supported causes related to President Trump’s reelection. The president has repeatedly questioned the legitimacy of voting by mail over the past several weeks, without citing any concrete evidence of illegal activity.
Google, Twitter, and Facebook all have tried, with varying levels of success, to tighten control of misinformation in political ads ahead of the 2020 presidential elections. Earlier this month, Facebook said it would start banning US news publishers with connections to political groups from appearing in its News tab, and Google announced that it would bar political advertisers masquerading as local news outlets from placing ads as of September. Twitter banned all political advertising earlier this year.