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Google tightens political ads policy in effort to stop abuse

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Google on Wednesday updated how it handles political ads as online platforms remain under pressure to avoid being used to spread misleading information intended to influence voters.

The internet company said its rules already ban any advertiser, including those with political messages, from lying in ads. But it is making its policy more clear and adding examples of how that prohibits content such as doctored or manipulated images or video.

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“It’s against our policies for any advertiser to make a false claim — whether it’s a claim about the price of a chair or a claim that you can vote by text message, that election day is postponed, or that a candidate has died,” Google ads product management vice president Scott Spencer said in an online post.

Examples of banned ad material included ads or links to information making demonstrably false claims that could undermine voter trust or participation in elections.

“Of course, we recognize that robust political dialogue is an important part of democracy, and no one can sensibly adjudicate every political claim, counterclaim, and insinuation,” Spencer said.

“So we expect that the number of political ads on which we take action will be very limited – but we will continue to do so for clear violations.”

Google’s main formats for political advertising are ads posted along with search query results, those shown at video viewing service YouTube, and display ads that appear on websites.

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Google will also limit targeting of political ads to general categories such as age, gender, or postal code level location.

“Political advertisers can, of course, continue to do contextual targeting, such as serving ads to people reading or watching a story about, say, the economy,” Spencer said/.

“This will align our approach to election ads with long-established practices in media such as TV, radio, and print, and result in election ads being more widely seen and available for public discussion.”

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Google will begin enforcing the changes in Britain within a week and throughout the EU by the end of the year, then in the rest of the world starting January 6, according to Spencer.

– Speech vs Truth –

Snap this week confirmed that it checks political ads at Snapchat to make sure they are not deceptive or misleading and thus enforce its ban on such material.

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The strategy seems to be a middle ground between Facebook’s controversial tolerance of proven lies in political ads and Twitter’s decision to ban them all together.

Snap policies prohibit political ads that are deceptive or misleading, with an in-house team reviewing such paid messages to make sure they don’t break the rules.

Twitter last week said its ban on political ads will exempt “cause-based” messages on topics related to social or environmental issues.

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The San Francisco-based messaging platform plans to bar all paid political messages starting Friday, while addressing concerns expressed by activists for social causes.

“Ads that educate, raise awareness, and/or call for people to take action in connection with civic engagement, economic growth, environmental stewardship, or social equity causes are allowed,” Twitter said in its new policy.

“However, they may not reference prohibited political advertisers or political content.”

Twitter said the move was aimed at countering the spread of misinformation by politicians.

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The political ban has drawn mixed reactions: some argue it puts pressure on Facebook to follow suit or take other steps to curb the spread of misinformation from politicians; others say a ban will be difficult to enforce.

Social media platforms have been challenged by President Donald Trump’s campaign and its use of ads that contain claims which critics say have been debunked by independent fact-checkers.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said political advertising is not a major source of revenue but adds that he believes it is important to allow everyone a “voice,” and that banning political ads would favor incumbents.


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Top South Dakota Republicans face investigation for appearing to be drunk during crucial coronavirus session

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Lawmakers in South Dakota are investigating whether or not Senate Majority Leader Kris Langer (R) was drunk during a meeting earlier this week -- a meeting that dealt with new legislation regarding the coronavirus outbreak, the Rapid City Journal reports.

Another South Dakota Republican, Brock Greenfield, is also under investigation for his conduct during the meeting.

"Langer and Greenfield oversaw the Senate proceedings from a conference room in the Capitol as lawmakers convened through teleconference to decide on a series of emergency bills for the coronavirus outbreak," the Journal reports. "As the Senate prepared to adjourn Tuesday morning, Sen. Phil Jensen, a Rapid City Republican, said he had heard Langer was intoxicated and had interrupted meetings in the House and Senate. He then attempted to move to create a disciplinary committee."

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‘Modern piracy’: Germany accuses Trump of stealing N95 masks it ordered from factory in China

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The German government is accusing the U.S. government of stealing N95 masks that it had ordered from a factory based in China that's run by American company 3M.

The Guardian reports that the German government claims that "200,000 N95 masks made by the manufacturer 3M were diverted to the U.S. as they were being transferred between planes in Thailand."

Andreas Geisel, the interior minister for Berlin state, said that the American seizure of masks that were set to go to Germany was "an act of modern piracy" and warned that continuing to take such actions could create chaos across the globe.

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New Mavis Staples song to help Chicago seniors hit by virus

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Soul legend Mavis Staples on Friday released a new charity song, "All In It Together", to raise funds to help elderly people in Chicago through the coronavirus.

Produced by Jeff Tweedy, of Wilco fame, 80-year-old Staples said the song "speaks to what we're going through now".

"Everyone is in this together, whether you like it or not," said the veteran civil rights campaigner, who first shot to fame with The Staples Singers.

"It doesn't matter how much money you have, what race or sex you are... it can still touch you. It's hit so many people in our country and around the world in such a horrible way and I just hope this song can bring a little light to the darkness."

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