Google to pause U.S. political ads ahead of presidential inauguration


FILE PHOTO: A Google sign is shown at one of the company's office complexes in Irvine, California, U.S., July 27, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

(Reuters) - Alphabet Inc's Google will stop selling political ads referencing U.S. elections across its services until at least Jan. 21, following last week's violence at the Capitol, according to an email to advertisers seen by Reuters.

The email said the action was taken "following the unprecedented events of the past week and ahead of the upcoming presidential inauguration," which takes place on Jan. 20.

In a statement, Google said it would "temporarily pause all political ads in addition to any ads referencing impeachment, the inauguration, or protests at the U.S. Capitol."

The move, to take effect on Thursday, will make no exceptions for news organizations or merchandisers running ads.

On Dec. 10, Google had lifted a temporary ban on election-related advertisements, which took effect after polls closed in the November U.S. presidential election and aimed to curb misinformation and other abuses on its platforms.

Facebook Inc also paused political ads after the Nov. 3 election, only briefly unfreezing ads around the U.S. Senate election in Georgia earlier this month.

A Google spokeswoman said the company had been employing a limited version of its "Sensitive Event" policy since the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump, which meant it did not allow ads referencing the political violence at the Capitol.

The policy seeks to prohibit content that potentially capitalizes on events like public health emergencies or natural disasters.

In the email, which was first reported by Axios, Google also reminded advertisers of its policy against ads that promote hate or incite violence. "Given the events of the last week, we are extremely vigilant about enforcing on any ads that might reasonably be construed as crossing this line," it said.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford in New York and Eva Mathews in Bengaluru; Editing by Mark Potter and Matthew Lewis)

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