While I’m sure this is all just a big coincidence, it seems that both Google and Youtube have been removing advertisements from the Trump 2020 campaign by the truckload. During an interview with YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki for Sixty Minutes, she talked to Lesley Stahl about the company’s policies and how advertisements that violate them can result in the ads being removed. While Wojcicki cited some generic examples, Stahl was particularly interested in one topic. Had they removed any of Trump’s ads?
The answer, of course, was yes. And there were literally hundreds of examples. Unfortunately, details and specifics of when, how and why it was done were few and far between. (CBS News)
60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl asked Wojcicki, “Have you taken down any of President Trump’s ads at all?” YouTube’s CEO responded, “There are ads of President Trump that were not approved to run on Google or YouTube.” When pressed for an example, Wojcicki added, “Well, they’re available in our transparency report.”
60 Minutes reviewed the archive to learn more about President Trump’s problematic political ads. We found that over 300 video ads were taken down by Google and YouTube, mostly over the summer, for violating company policy. But the archive doesn’t detail what policy was violated. Was it copyright violation? A lie or extreme inaccuracy? Faulty grammar? Bad punctuation? It’s unclear. The ads determined to be offending are not available to be screened.
As the report from CBS goes on to say, they found “very little transparency in the transparency report.” And even though there are records of Trump ads being removed, there is no description provided as to which specific policy the ad violated. You can’t figure it out for yourself because the ads aren’t available to play.
In other words, Google and YouTube are transparently keeping a list of political ads they remove, but they don’t share the reasons for the removal. Just the fact that they were pulled.
Before we go giving too much credit to CBS News for digging into an important topic, I would point out one fact about Lesley Stahl’s interview. She was the one who specifically brought up Trump ads, not Wojcicki. Do you know which other political candidate’s ads she asked about? None. No questions about any ads for Democrats. Of course, if they were up to anything naughty in the advertising game, it wouldn’t be very on-brand for CBS to talk about it.
In a delicious bit of irony, or perhaps just to cover her own backside, Stahl hits the CEO with a question about bias. “As you know, conservatives think that you discriminate against them,” Stahl says. This leads to Wojcicki going into a lengthy discourse on how their algorithms “don’t have any concept of understanding what’s a Democrat, what’s a Republican.” It’s an interesting claim since the people building those algorithms and setting all the parameters very clearly do understand the difference.
So what’s the bottom line here? Apparently, Google and YouTube are busily removing advertisements for the Trump campaign. Do they remove any submitted by Democrats? Perhaps. We don’t know because they’re not saying. But it’s yet one more nugget from the media and online landscapes to keep in mind as we slog toward 2020.