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Google will now make public who’s buying political Ads and how much they’re spending

by Felix Omondi

Elections in their nature are divisive, sometimes it leaves a nation more divided, deepens mistrusts, and causes unrests. It could easily lead to civil unrest, wanton destruction, people displacement, loss of lives and properties. It is not the stuff to mess with, and in this digital age, ‘smart people’ who seat behind a screen all day can run malicious propaganda leading to the rigging of public opinion hack electoral system and alter the results of the entire elections.

These are the type of allegations that marred the last Presidential Elections in nations such as Kenya, and the USA. Even the breakout of the UK from the EU economic block through the Brexit referendum is alleged to have been manipulated by these ‘smart people’ acting behind computer screens.

Who are these ‘smart people’ you ask? Well, accusing fingers have been pointed to Russia, while others accused the digital campaign organizer Cambridge Analytica. The bottom line is, we really don’t know, and if we do, we only learned about them after the damage has been done. All governments across the world can grill Facebook leadership all they want, but the fact remains, big advertisement companies got paid to carry political Ads with ill-intent, and they did not ask any questions other than, ‘where the paper at?’

Google was looking at Facebook’s grilling in cold sweat…

It must have been funny for Google, the most prominent Ad Company in the world, to watch Facebook take all the heat on the possible manipulation of public opinion using stolen data by Cambridge Analytica. The search engine giant must have been doing some serious in-house sweeping since it could probably be the next company should the U.S. Congress decide to run a full online check on possible players.

Talking , last Friday, Google’s Senior VP Kent Walker posted a blog outlining the company’s new rules for hosting political Ads. These rules include a mandatory verification of the political Ad buyer.

According to Walker, anyone intending to publish a political Ads, Google will “require that advertisers confirm they are a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, as required by law.”

He further says Ad buyers must verify their identity using their government-issued ID and “other key information.” It not quite clear what Walker meant by ‘other key information,’ but my guess would be along the line of tax ID number or social security number.

Walker assures the general public (well, mainly U.S. citizens concerned with the integrity of the upcoming midterm elections) that Google is working on Transparency Reports, which will give details on who bought what Ads on Google and how much they’ve spent. The report will be published and kept in a database open to the public; anyone can look at the report.

In addition to this recent effort towards safeguarding the company’s role in the elections, Walker also talked about the recently released Jigsaw Protect Your Elections toolkit. This tool looks like Google response to the alleged Russia influence in multiple elections across the world.

The company also launched some new improvements to its Advance Protection Program including support for native Apple iOS apps support. The protection will now be extended to the iOS platform and will safeguard against phishing scams and hacking among other cyber threats.

Related: Facebook will now require Political Ads to thoroughly verify their sponsors – A move to Fight Public Opinion Rigging during Electioneering periods

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