Google Takes Heat from Trump, GOP: Did It Miscalculate?

Google’s (GOOGL) attempt to avoid a problem Facebook (FB) has been grappling with for months seems to have backfired. President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign and Republican groups have come down on the company over changes it’s made to its political advertising guidelines. The Trump campaign and GOP groups charge that the changes Google has introduced will suppress voter turnout in next year’s presidential election.

Google updates political advertising rules amid pressure

Last week, Google updated its rules governing political advertising on its platforms, which resulted in its limiting the narrow targeting of political messages across its platforms, including YouTube.

It made the decision after it came under pressure to crack down on misleading political ads. The Trump campaign ran ads on Google, Facebook, and Twitter that angered former Vice President Joe Biden. This promoted the Biden campaign to request the platforms take down the offending ads, which apparently included false information. But they all refused to do it, saying the ads didn’t break their rules. However, the refusal to remove the contested ads about Biden only intensified pressure on the companies to curb political misinformation.

Twitter (TWTR) bowed to the pressure and decided to ban all political advertising on its platform. Facebook said it would continue accepting political ads but hinted that it could make some changes. Google was left to state its stance. It did so, denying politicians and political groups the ability to target narrow audiences with political ads.

Google’s move fails to extinguish political fire

But that decision has kicked up a storm. In addition to fearing the rule changes will hurt voter turnout, the Trump campaign has also suggested that it doesn’t trust Google to treat Republicans and Democrats equally.

It’s not just Republicans who have faulted Google’s new political advertising rules. Democrats, too, fear the changes will hurt their efforts to mobilize at the grassroots.

Facebook has long been under fire over its political advertising rules, which give politicians a free pass to say anything. Facebook’s controversial rules have led to claims the company has cut a secret deal with Trump. If Google hoped rule changes would protect it from Facebook’s troubles, it was wrong.

Political advertising is generally small business

Google’s updated political advertising rules will take effect in January. Twitter stopped accepting political ads last week. Facebook may follow in Google’s footsteps with political ad restrictions of its own.

Selling political ads contributes less than 1.0% revenue at both Twitter and Facebook. Google hasn’t disclosed how much political ad sales contribute to its total revenue. However, Alphabet hasn’t indicated that Google’s decision to slap political advertisers with restrictions will affect its revenue.