Google has declined to remove ads from a shadowy group echoing President Trump’s misleading claim that there is a meaningful difference between voting by mail and absentee voting.
Google took five days to reach its decision to leave the ads in place, alarming voting rights advocates as well as researchers in the University of Washington’s Human Centered Design and Engineering department who had alerted Google to the ads last week.
“This is active and blatant disinformation,” said Himanshu Zade, a doctoral student in the department. “I don’t think there’s any question that it’s a misleading narrative.”
The ads “stand to promote confusion for the public at a time when clarity is needed,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the national Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “And so it is deeply troubling.”
A Google spokeswoman, Charlotte Smith, declined to answer specific questions about the ads or explain how they complied with the company’s policies, saying only in an emailed statement: “We have zero tolerance for ads that employ voter suppression tactics or undermine participation in elections. When we find those ads, we take them down.”
Facebook removed similar ads from the same group in response to a Washington Post article last week.