Google, one of the biggest online platforms for advertising, is currently refusing to accept local political ads in two states: Washington and Maryland. Thanks to fears of Russian interference, some states have passed laws demanding more information about who is buying ads and how much they’re paying for them.
The problem isn’t the demand for transparency. It’s politicians’ insistence on creating hyperfast reporting guidelines without knowing if or how tech and media companies can comply. In Maryland, a new law requires online platforms to keep track of political ad buys and disclose the information to the public within 48 hours. The problem is that Google doesn’t sell advertisements in a way compatible with the law. It’s not selling ads with a flat upfront charge; it has a dynamic system that charges based on the campaign’s success in reaching people.
So on Friday, Google announced that it would, at least temporarily, stop accepting ads for political campaigns within the state of Maryland. This follows on the heels of a similarly move in Washington a month ago, after the state enacted “emergency” rules required real-time reporting disclosure of online ad buys including “descriptions of the geographic areas and locations targeted and the total number of views generated by the ads.”
According to a Google spokesperson, the company values transparency but doesn’t have the tools to comply with these rules as written.