2022 Philippine Elections

Google political ads ban for 2022 campaign ‘a big help for everyone’ – Comelec

Dwight de Leon
Google political ads ban for 2022 campaign ‘a big help for everyone’ – Comelec

GOOGLE. The logo for Google LLC is seen at the Google Store Chelsea in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., November 17, 2021.

Andrew Kelly/Reuters

A poll watchdog also calls Google's move 'a good breather as regards potential disinformation,' and urges other social media platforms to follow suit

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) and a poll watchdog welcomed Google’s announcement that it would stop accepting political ads in the Philippines during the campaign season for the 2022 elections.

The decision comes as the poll body faces an uphill challenge to regulate political advertisements online, in the absence of legislation that would empower them to do so.

“The concern has always been that ads on the internet are unregulated, and people are concerned that we will be overwhelmed by those ads. The concerns that this will unbalance the playing field are well-founded,” Comelec spokesman James Jimenez told reporters in an ambush interview on Wednesday, December 1.

“Obviously, if you have more money for ads, you get more airtime on the internet. Airtime on the internet, while it is cheaper than broadcast advertising, that still adds up to a lot of money. This will be a big help for everyone,” he added.

Jimenez clarified that the Comelec did not make any request for Google to make such a move, and was not consulted by the tech giant ahead of the announcement.

In its statement earlier on Wednesday, Google said the new policy will apply to election advertisements “purchased through Google Ads, Display and Video 360, and Shopping platforms that advertisers intend to place on Google, YouTube, and partner properties.”

Ahead of the official campaign period from February 8 to May 9, 2022, many politicians have shifted to social media to mount their 2022 campaign, especially with pandemic-driven mobility restrictions.

‘Breather against disinformation’

Poll watchdog Kontra Daya also expressed hopes that the move would hamper disinformation efforts online.

“[T]his can help curb forms of disinformation, especially red-tagging which causes human rights violations, including murder,” Kontra Daya convenor Danilo Arao told Rappler.

“It is a good breather as regards potential disinformation, and other platforms like Facebook, Twitter and TikTok should follow suit,” he added.

While this is the first time Google made this move in the Philippines, the firm has banned political advertising on its platform in the past, including in the 2019 Canadian federal elections, and the 2020 Singaporean general election.

For next year’s vote, the Comelec will seek to regulate online campaigning by asking candidates to register their official social media pages before the poll body.

It will also prohibit the microtargeting of voters in the 2022 polls, wherein a person’s online usage is analyzed to serve them ads that specifically cater to their preferences.

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It remains to be seen, however, whether the Comelec can step up its game in fighting misinformation and disinformation online.

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez appealed to the public before to manage expectations “due to the lack of a legislative framework” that would boost the poll body’s powers. – Rappler.com

Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers local government units and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.