7 Times Google, Meta Weaponized Censorship Against Political Campaign Ads

Ahead of the historic 2024 election, Big Tech is back to its old tricks of censoring the political ads of the opposition of their apparent candidates of choice.

Google and Facebook (now Meta) have targeted candidates or campaigns ahead of elections in seven major instances since 2018. In both America and the United Kingdom, these tech giants have engaged in election interference by shutting down ads for candidates whose political views do not align with the companies’ ideology.

Below are seven occasions when the tech giants went all out on ads censorship, censoring dozens of political ads.

1) In May 2024, Google was caught censoring an ad supporting former President Donald Trump’s campaign multiple times. The pro-Trump ad depicted a fictional phone call between a Biden campaign worker and a voter, highlighting Biden’s disastrous economic and border policies. The ad was scheduled to run from May 1 to May 3, according to screenshotsof Google’s Ad Library posted by Andrew Arenge, director of operations for the Program on Opinion Research and Election Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Google reportedly restored the censored ad the following day, asserting the ad was flagged “in error.” MRC President Brent Bozell argued this was an insufficient excuse. “This is unacceptable. Why did Google remove the ad from Trump’s Super PAC in the first place? This is a continuation of a campaign against conservatives,” Bozell stated. 

2) In 2020, Facebook targeted ads from Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump in a frenzy of censorship. Facebook censored posts and ads from then-sitting President Donald Trump no fewer than four times. Furthermore, the platform took down seven political ads that were paid for by the political right. Facebook killed one ad campaign comparing Democrats’ open borders and COVID-19 lockdown policies about a month before the 2020 election. The Washington Post reported at the time, “There were more than 30 versions of the ad running on the social network, according to Facebook’s ad transparency library. It had gathered between 200,000 and 250,000 impressions.”

3) Meta’s Facebook went on a 2020 ad censorship spree. Facebook censored a staggering 5,100 ads with the key words, “Dangerous mobs of far left groups are running through our streets and causing absolute mayhem.” These included thousands of ads, and over a dozen ad campaigns from Trump, his team, his supporters and his then-Vice President Mike Pence.

4) Google targeted Joe Biden’s Democrat primary opponent in 2020. Google disabledthen-presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard’s Google Ads account just as she became the most searched-for candidate following the first Democratic Party primary debate during that cycle. Gabbard’s campaign said the censorshipoccurred “without any explanation” from Google. “For hours, Tulsi’s campaign advertising account remained offline while Americans everywhere were searching for information about her,” the campaign accused.

5) In 2018, Facebook censored multiple candidates for the U.S. Congress. Facebook removed ads for then-Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-MT). Besides these candidates, The platform reportedly removed another video that promoted an AR-15 giveaway that Senate candidate Austin Petersen (R-MO) was conducting on his website.

6) Facebook targeted at least one state legislator before the 2018 election. Michigan Republican state Senate candidate Aric Nesbittfound his ad was rejected by Facebook “because it doesn’t follow our Advertising Policies. We don’t allow ads that contain shocking, disrespectful or sensational content, including ads that depict violence or threats of violence.” Nesbitt’s ad simply promised, “I will work to strengthen our economy, limit government, lower our auto insurance rates, balance the budget, stop sanctuary cities, pay down government debt and be a Pro-Life, Pro-Second Amendment leader for the people.”

7) Google censors anti-globalist UK political party a month before major 2024 election.Reform UK Party leader and political candidate Nigel Farage tweeted June 22, “ELECTION INTERFERENCE ALERT 🚨 Big Tech giant @Google has BLOCKED our Ad Accounts. They are trying to stop the Reform message.” The account was restored later that day, according to Farage, who did not note if Google had provided an explanation. As MRC Vice President for Free Speech Dan Schneider said, “Google’s reach is truly global, including how it meddles in elections.”

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