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Google to restrict political adverts worldwide (bbc.com)
312 points by ggambetta 58 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 207 comments



Restricting the categories for political advertising is certainly a move in the right direction. It will reduce the power of digital advertising to that of traditional media. It may not be a welcome move by some political parties but overall it could allow for good ideas from rival parties to have a wider reach rather than 'preaching to the choir' as it were. The dissemination of good ideas might become more democratic.

However, the idea of removing ads because of 'false claims' can only lead to censorship in the future. The list of what's considered false will inevitably grow over time and put a lot of power in the hands of whoever is deciding the 'truthiness' of claims. It isn't difficult to imagine this being applied inconsistently in countries further away from Western politcal norms. This does give Google a lot of power in shaping political discourse and influence outside of US and EU territories.

We know from how they've handled disputes on YouTube, disabled Gmail and developer accounts that this process unlikely have any better transparency than we've seen to date.

I'd argue that political advertising would require greater transparency and I'm not convinced that Google has the capability or the motivation to provide it.


>However, the idea of removing ads because of 'false claims' can only lead to censorship in the future

you might be right, but the reality is that the world has a large problem with disinformation and false claims right now that's causing real negative consequences for real people. Stopping the spread of false information is a good thing that should be done.

Letting blatant lies control our political processes now just to prevent future potential censorship in the future is not a good compromise.


Personally, I'm conflicted. Your argument rests upon the idea that people's minds can be "poisoned" with false information. And I understand that. But at some point you have to hold people responsible for believing stuff that is blatantly false. There was a time that, if you believed in Bat Boy [1], most people rightly thought you were a bozo.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bat_Boy_(character)


I too want to believe in individual people having the ability to determine fact from fiction. The problem I see, however, is the power dynamic nowadays. What chance does the average person have in rooting out disinformation when it's being spread by interests using million dollar marketing campaigns and rooms filled with PhDs? The average person can't really invest the time in becoming an expert in all of the problems that affect us even if they want to and you need to rely on other people at some point.


These hordes of extremely naive people that are so easily fooled: if they exist, why should they be allowed to vote at all in the first place?


Blatantly false? The problem is not stuff which is blatantly false. The problem is that if you make a large number of false statements, some of them will not be so obviously false. Also, a large part of the danger of misinformation is not that people will believe false things, but that people will lose faith in journalism as a medium.


If something isn't blatantly false how exactly is Google supposed to moderate it? They don't hire enough employees to even manually review all of the complaints related to their income stream, let alone for voluntary initiatives to police truth.

Besides, the category 'things which are false but that gullible people might be persuaded by' is basically what the political process deals with. Along with 'things that are true but naive people don't believe'. Clamp down on that and you might as well just get rid of elections as there isn't a lot to poll people on.


I think that Google very plausibly has statistical tools already built that will help quite a bit in this arena. Combatting fake news is essentially the same problem as combatting SEO.


You suggesting that Google has statistical tools that can reveal fundamental political truths. That is not true. If it is true, maybe Google could do some good by releasing this information to the rest of us so we can also solve all these pesky partisan issues plaguing the political landscape.

It is possible to draw a vague philosophical parallel between SEO and lying, but in practice they aren't going to be similar. I don't know what similarities you see so I can't argue with them, but dealing with SEO doesn't involve figuring out whether the SEO is done truthfully or not. I'd imagine much SEO is done in the service of truth (sell you X for $Y style arrangements) that just happens to turn up in unwanted places.


Google has convincingly lost the battle with SEO, so forgive me for not being encouraged by that.


This seems more like a signal/noise pollution problem. Which also means that false things are harder to correct.

Showing something that is blatantly false is much harder when all information sources become jammed.


Advertisers have a responsibility for truth in advertising, if they can't handle that then their distributors can cut them off. This is as old as the advertising business. Claiming that Obama is a Muslim Cleric and expecting equal treatment with that hogwash deserves to get banned. Same if Trump was claimed to drink the blood of babies (which no one has disproven!) would also be an ad that could be banned. Again I say good for Goog; eliminating targeting of the audience by political affiliation is a good thing.


The core problem being, of course, that only one of your two examples would actually get removed.


it isn't about poisoning the mind, it's about filling the channel with noise so important facts don't get through. note that fake news are being produced, reposted and boosted consistently and continuously, they aren't one-offs.


It’s called “the firehouse of falsehood” and it’s a play straight out of the KGB’s propaganda book.

Read more: https://www.rand.org/pubs/perspectives/PE198.html


[flagged]


The guy didn’t shoot up a pizza parlour, he shot a single bullet into the roof, was promptly arrested, and even admitted he was wrong. The world didn’t end, there’s a million worse examples of similar human stupidity that have nothing to do with politics and won’t be solved by letting tech companies choose what is true and what isn’t.

This is wishful thinking in response to an overreaction. This sort of thing isn’t worth sacrificing speech over, largely because it won’t work (for ex: Infowars is still extremely popular even without social media accounts) and the costs of false positives will out weigh the returns.


> the costs of false positives will out weigh the returns.

We have several 10's of millions of people killed in the 20th century that put this statement, which is speculative at best, to the lie. People killed because disinformation, mob-rousing, and lies were permitted to poison the commons.


That's the opposite of how I'd describe it. 10s of millions were killed in the twentieth century by despotic regimes which decided that anyone opposed to them was spreading disinformation and lies, not because they were unwilling to take action.


> the reality is that the world has a large problem with disinformation and false claims right now that's causing real negative consequences for real people.

Can you expand on what you mean by this? It seems we have more transparency than ever before into how governments are operating (mostly corruption) and that's a good thing. What negative consequences do you see coming from false claims?

I suspect the answer to this question might highlight why people are nervous about Google (or any company) being the arbiter of truth.


Because people tend to be cattle and eliminating the echo chamber of targeted political advertising is a good thing. If you want your message out there let everyone see it and call you out for your lies, whatever your party or end game. I prefer twitter's method of just cutting it out, but Goog hit the middle ground I suppose and only let advertisers aim more generic target audience like age and sex.


false claims are not transparency. false claims are the opposite of transparency. When you allow lies to spread unchecked, real transparency is meaningless because the true information exposed by the transparency can be drowned out by the false information.

Honestly, i don't even know where to begin with being asked to explain why lies are bad


The problem is that most political speech is rarely simple facts with true/false values. Political speech is complicated and full of nuance and ambiguities. Just look at the example that AOC grilled Zuckerberg over: "Republicans support the Green New Deal". Which Republicans? Which version of the Green New Deal? Which parts of it?

Ultimately you're just handing control over speech to the arbiters of "true" and "false", who are themselves political creatures.

Sometimes we just have to accept some bad things in our society, because the consequence of eliminating them is worse. See also: The War On Drugs.


I'm asking what false claims you think are "controlling our political process", and causing a "large problem" in the world?

It seems to me that good old fashioned state/media propaganda are a much larger problem than any false claims circulating on the internet.


Exactly one of the following two claims is a lie:

1) “Vaccines are safe”

2) “Vaccines cause, rather than prevent, illnesses”.

If 1 is true, the antivaxx movement is risking tens of millions of lives and >>billions of disability adjusted years of life expectancy.

If 2 is true, vaccines are a multibillion dollar fraud.


This is a great example because (1) is not universally true and (2) is a caricature of what anti-vaxxers claim.

Anti-vaxxers are probably incorrect, but you are also the victim of a misinformation campaign. Limiting them doesn't help you get better information.


1 is so close to true that it's a basically harmless statement. 2 is flat out true, anti-vaxxers have no scientific basis for their claims and they are essentially murdering people including small kids. so yeah 2 is just as ridiculous as was states.


> 1 is so close to true that it's a basically harmless statement.

It is indeed a very dangerous statement, because it leads the scientifically illiterate to think that they don't need to speak frankly with their doctor for health advice. For example, your 'harmless' statement led to my brother incorrectly receiving the MMR vaccine. You see, he has hemophilia ,which is a contra-indication to receive the vaccine. Hemophilia is relatively common enough (because, according to the CDC, any blood clotting disorder that extends bleeding time, is a contraindication for MMR). He ended up having severe seizures as a child.

Or moreover, neither my daughter nor I should (or should have, in my case) receive the MMR vaccine as infants due to a family history of sometimes severe immune issues. These are also relatively common conditions.

I'm not an anti-vaxxer, BTW. I'm just following CDC recommendations, to the T: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/should-not-vacc.html

Neither of this means that most people should receive MMR. But not everyone should. MMR is not 100% safe. No vaccine is, even if the general benefits outweigh the cons.


It's possible for anti-vaxxers to simultaneously be a net harm to children while having reasonable concerns about some aspects of our current best practices regarding vaccines. Regardless, dismissing them and calling them murderers doesn't seem helpful towards stopping them or addressing their fears.


“Close to true” is still false. The medical community isn’t doing itself any favours (with regards to their credibility) by espousing false “almost truths”. The fact is that vaccines are not (100%) safe (no medical procedure is) - it’s just that the tiny risk vs huge reward makes them worth it.


Thanks for encouraging me to be more precise in my examples. Looking at the rest of this thread, I can see my mistake.

Ironically, I thought this would be a better choice than a Brexit/the EU example.


> Exactly one of the following two claims is a lie:

No, a lie is a deception carried out by means of an untrue statement. "1 + 1 = 3" is not a lie, but an accountant claiming such in order to embezzle is lying.

> 1) “Vaccines are safe” > 2) “Vaccines cause, rather than prevent, illnesses”.

For the sake of getting at the deeper problem with this argument, I'll grant that a version of these assertions could be roughly mutually exclusive.

> If 1 is true, the antivaxx movement is risking tens of millions of lives and >>billions of disability adjusted years of life expectancy.

> If 2 is true, vaccines are a multibillion dollar fraud.

You've framed this as though it's hard to believe that the antivaxx movement would risk people dying and becoming disabled.

Many positions impose a potentially high death toll if you're wrong, e.g. both sides of the debates on war, guns, climate change, health care.

In an alternate history, Neville Chamberlain could have been the man who brokered "peace in our time." He believed he was right and, correctly, believed going to war would be bloody and awful, and took actions based on those beliefs.

But we typically have little direct influence over policy, so what dominates people's views is the immediate impact they observe. In that "multibillion dollar fraud" you have countless doctors and pharmacists administering vaccines to people they know, watching them get sick, and shrugging it off to collect a paycheck.

Unless medical school filters for people who are profoundly unethical, that's not happening.


I appreciate that you’re giving the benefit of the doubt to what was, in retrospect, a poorly written dichotomy on my part.

However, I can’t follow the point you’re making. If it isn’t too much to ask for an internet stranger, could I ask you to rephrase that?


while i dont believe this to be the case with vaccines:

they can be non-complicit with it and still unknowingly participate in the fraud.

ultimately, the doctors have to trust their data as well, which can - theoretically! - be manufactured in order to sell snake oil equivalent.

its a vanishingly small chance with vaccinations, but nonetheless a possibility which cant be outright denied.

the sad thing about this is that we're almost guaranteed to have a situation like that at some point. it will likely be a significantly less widespread topic than vaccines, but there is too much money to be made with this for nobody to make an attempt. to be honest, i expect that there is already at least some medication like that in circulation and we just don't know about it (nor the doctors which prescribe them).


The claim was that false statements are controlling our political process. The antivaxx movement has exactly zero impact on politics.


Antivax has plenty influence on politics. They've been able to push states to allow more and more capability to dodge vaccines when they should be mandatory unless there is a medically compelling reason not to.


The antivaxx movement recently had an impact on CDC policy, Department of Education involvement at Federal and State levels on how to handle unvaccinated kids, laws passed by State Governors, and two Senate bills. I'm not sure how you're able to minimize their impact on politics.

There are clear links between false statements, the antivaxx movement and the resurgence of deadly medical conditions.


Um, my kid caught a disease from a live-virus vaccine and then spread it to younger family members, so if we're being totally honest here...


This relies on the assumption that traditional media isn't the source of disinformation and false claims, which at the best of times is far from true and even worse if you happen to live in a country where Murdoch media has a near monopoly.

Then the question is does political advertising make the disinformation problem better or worse and I'm far less sure of that. It's easy to point to a few crazies but their influence is less certain and traditional media has always had plenty of crazy.


That's an unsubstantiated claim. Where is the evidence that fake news (as opposed to speculation, which should be immune to censorship) is a "large problem"?


And yet some of the lies will be left and now even protected because the reality will be deemed the false claims.


Politicians and political parties have always lied to get elected. Why political ads on digital sites would be different than analogue ones is what interests me.


So, you're calling for a sort of "Ministry of Truth" aren't you.


Can you give an example of a false claim that’s causing real negative consequences for real people?

Difficulty: the claim needs to be one that was made in support of something that you personally agree with.


> However, the idea of removing ads because of 'false claims' can only lead to censorship in the future

Looks like what they're calling 'false claims' is extremely narrow and based on simple objective facts:

> For example, Google would remove ads that falsely claimed that a candidate had died or that gave the wrong date for an election.

> However, it would not ban claims that you cannot trust a rival party, for instance, which would be viewed as being a matter of opinion.

IMO, I think the better approach to handle truthiness issues is to give the other party/candidate/candidates a chance to post a rebuttal.


> I think the better approach to handle truthiness issues is to give the other party/candidate/candidates a chance to post a rebuttal.

I disagree. That's effectively how modern journalism works where the news is "objective" by letting each side say its piece.

The end result is that the media is easy exploitable. The fundamental problem is that manufacturing lies takes less effort than explaining the truth. The latter is hampered by requiring research, evidence, and consistency. The former has no such restrictions.

That means Party A can spend five minutes saying "Party B eats kittens!" Now Party A has to spend a week providing evidence that no, they do not in fact eat kittens. Meanwhile, Party A has already put out five more press releases about how Party B drinks the blood of infants, was responsible for Firefly being canceled, and wants to raise your taxes to buy bombs to drop on wildlife preserves.

The consequence is that whoever has the least respect for the truth has the greatest ability to control the narrative. See:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bullshit#Bullshit_asymmetry_pr...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firehose_of_falsehood

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gish_gallop


>I disagree. That's effectively how modern journalism works where the news is "objective" by letting each side say its piece.

Even that level of objectivity is rarely met these days. One advantage of this is that it's easy to mandate and enforce.

Honestly, this would probably kill off most false advertising, though. Who would run an advert saying that a candidate had died when on the same advert you could see a response on the same advert from the candidate that he's alive and well?

Even subtle lies would be easily countered by giving right of reply.

>The fundamental problem is that manufacturing lies takes less effort than explaining the truth.

This isn't a new problem and never was. The Spanish didn't destroy the USS Maine. There were no WMDs in Iraq.


What happens is that, if you lie, the other party now has a platform to advertise on your dime.

Party A: "Party B eats kittens"

Party B: "We're going to lower taxes and fix climate change."

See how it works? Party A pays money into the system, Party B just gets to ignore the silly claim and gets free advertising.


What about parties C through Z?


That's such an important point. The two party system caused by plurality voting is so strong it even influences how we imagine policy debates. We imagine there would only ever be two points of view on any policy matter because no one wants to split the vote for the good guys.


Depends on the issue / election, because it's only hotly contested elections that have many candidates. (Assuming you're in the US, most elected offices only have a handful of people running, and other ballot questions are yes/no.)

In general, if you have many candidates / parties, there are some ways to handle the situation.

For example, you can limit it to the top parties in polls for that office, or only parties that get a certain percentage or higher in polls. (IE, top 5 candidates, or only candidates who, from polling, have 20% or higher.)

Or, if you have no limits, it just means that you're basically eliminating targeted political advertising. Whenever you advertise to a voter, everyone else gets to advertise, and whenever everyone advertises, so do you.

BTW, if you ever get to see a voter's guide in CA, take a look. I used to rely on them almost exclusively for voting, because they had statements (and rebuttals) from all the candidates.


See also: "A lie travels around the globe while the truth is putting on its shoes."


It always gets justified with some ideal examples then within a year or two the original rationale is forgotten and it’s being used broadly under pressure from various special interest groups inside and outside the organization.

This sort of thing needs to be black/white which is impossible leaving it full of grey areas where abuse and false positives without due process is a worse trade off than the original intention.


I don't think it's true to say that 'traditional media' is less powerful or less 'individually' targetable. Addressable cable, mail, phones, doors are central to politics and each individually targetable (at small sizes too).


Google is a private company and they should be able eliminate such things though. No government forced them to. If the political powers that be wouldn't have been so ham fisted they might have been able to keep their "things". Now they can't. good on Google (for once). eliminating targeting of the audience by political affiliation is a good thing.


The premise that 'traditional media' is not part of the problem is a terrible one. Censorship is not a good solution to bad ideas. Open marketplace of ideas is.


Just ban them completely or don't bother, I don't want Google to be the judge of the validity of claims as it's perfectly possible to make an add which is 100% made up of technically correct statements but presents a misleading narrative.

Then it comes to the question is there is such thing as a true narrative to begin with as narratives are subjective in nature, this is a can of worms that Google shouldn't open.

So yeah a full ban sure but not this, if they want some sort of a partial ban they should probably have an interface that allows local electoral commissions to vet advertisement and the most important thing I think Google must do is to disable targeted political ads if they continue to allow them in any shape or form.


Do you think that Google should allow an advertisement that claims you have a problem with your bank account and links you to a fake bank login page that steals your credentials?

Do you think that Google should allow an advertisement that falsely claims that a certain candidate has dropped out of the race, or that the election date has been changed?

Do you think that Google should allow an advertisement that falsely attributes words or actions to a certain candidate? (e.g. imagine an ad that falsely claims "Candidate X has changed her position on issue A.")

If you have different answers for some of these questions, then your view is more complicated than "I don't want Google to be the judge of the validity of claims."


I don't think it's correct, the first one is facilitates a defined criminal activity the 2 others are not necessarily criminal (they might be in certain jurisdictions).

There is a huge difference between an "ad" that is designed to compromise a bank account through phishing and a ad that is designed to sway political opinion even if it's untruthful.

In fact out of those 3 the former isn't even an advertisement necessarily despite the fact that it might be presented to the user through "google ads".


Whether an ad is illegal is something that Google would need to determine.


Banning them would just further extend the isolation/echo chambers created by social media.

If you have a political message, it makes sense to force you to tailor that message on very broad terms. Hearing something you might disagree with is part of life and very important to critical thinking.

This is not intended to be an opinion on false statements in political advertising.


> Banning them would just further extend the isolation/echo chambers created by social media.

I'm not sure this is true. I know I don't see ads from all sides. In my experience the targeted ads just reinforce the echo chamber.


Paid adverting artificiality maintains and promotes ideas backed by money rather than having ideas become widespread solely based on validity.

If we believe in the "market place of ideas" where validity and accuracy are the sole determiners of success then none should have artificial support. So all ads should be banned. If an idea fails in this market place, then it is reasonable to assume it is a bad idea. Leveraging it is just as bad when done by Soviet approved posters or Exxon paid for ads.

The echo chamber is an example where paid ads will actually _worsen_ the situation: Ads are aimed at target audiences driving them into more extremes by seeing exaggerated or false statement they would not have seen if there were no ads. Also, those echo chambers backed by moneyed interests will thrive and expand while those not money backed will fade. So instead of at least having some hope of uneasy balance between two extremes, you get head long plunge into just one of them.


> If we believe in the "market place of ideas" where validity and accuracy are the sole determiners of success then none should have artificial support.

The "market place of ideas" makes no mention of the speed, likelihood of transmission, or intended audience. The best candidate with the best message still needs to get the message out in a timely fashion (before the election and to the core constituency!). The best product at the best price doesn't matter if the business runs out of money before it can drum up sales... not to mention, real world concerns like collective action problems.

I'd argue the market place of ideas is only the best idea in comparison to the rest.


> Hearing something you might disagree with is part of life and very important to critical thinking.

I believe this is 100% true. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people do not have the skills to handle this. Look at the anger that appears on this site when certain topics are brought up.

So people have a hard time dealing with ideas they disagree with, but I doubt that forced interaction with those ideas will improve the situation.

We can see empirically that the most common reaction is to double down on your own ideas, get defensive, and generally react in a very self-centered and egotistical manner.

That's the current situation. Would banning political ads make this problem worse? I think I can see the logic here - people will only seek out what they agree with.

But it's not like political ads are the only way that they might be forced to see something they disagree with. The only way to do that these days would be to be completely off grid somewhere and never to see anyone else.

It's also the case that political ads probably provide the worse kind of perspective of views you disagree with.

The solution to the problem is to find a way to get people to break out of their ego-based thinking. A lot of magical things can happen when people are honestly committed to finding the truth, instead of protecting what they think the truth is.


> Unfortunately, the vast majority of people do not have the skills to handle this.

I would suggest that this is change, not a norm in the last few decades.

So, unfortunately, the vast majority of people no longer have the skills to handle this.

> ... double down on your own ideas, get defensive, and generally react in a very self-centered and egotistical manner. > ... find a way to get people to break out of their ego-based thinking

Yes. I think at least in western society (and I start to see this in Asia too) the self-importance crept in, replacing self-reliance.

How did we get here, and how do we "break out"?


> I would suggest that this is change, not a norm in the last few decades.

Propaganda is not a new thing and the reason it was and is widely used is because it works.

"But it would not work on smart people like me, but only on millenials or ...". Hint: If everybody considers themselves smarter than average...


I don't think there is a change in skills to handle this. I think that what happened is that now information travels so quickly while the variety of information sources people consume has decreased.

Before people had time to think about news and talk to people with different views and get push back. That additional friction slowed the spread of misinformation and guaranteed it would mix with the information. When given both, a sufficient portion of the population was able to determine which was which. Then these people could moderate the discussion with targeted persuasive arguments. Sure, a lot of people still believed the misinformation, but they were less confident about it.

Now the information and misinformation travel separate channels. By the time they meet odds are the people involved are already emotionally invested in one or the other.


> I would suggest that this is change, not a norm in the last few decades.

I am not so sure that we changed so rapidly. It would also make sense that this is not new, and it has just become more apparent in the last few decades, as people have been increasingly communicating with with more other people than ever before.

I think the vast majority of people never had the reason/opportunity to acquire critical thinking skills. It has been discussed by philosophers hundreds (if not thousands) of years ago, so I think it's safe to assume it's not new.

But regardless, I believe the real issue here is that we are not doing much to teach people to think critically.


What makes you think this is different? I think this process is baked into the structure of our brains and is part of the inherently biased way our brains operate.


> How did we get here

Everything about modern American culture; a nation of throwaway everything. Throwaway food, throwaway tools, throwaway friends, throwaway jobs.

> and how do we "break out"?

I dunno but maybe listen to and work to solve the things people complain about?

Income inequality, global warming, healthcare including mental health, education, penal system, politics


All good causes but I think it’s tangential.

People who are unaffected by all that haven’t “broken out”.


>Hearing something you might disagree with is part of life and very important to critical thinking

hearing one or two things you disagree with is part of life, hearing 100 things you disagree with a quarter of which are paid for by super PACs or in rubles isn't, that's a recipe for losing your mind.

'echo chamber' should become the unword of the year or something because apparently the free speech mantra has now turned into a license to shove opinions into other people's faces, a good portion of which aren't even authentic.


> Then it comes to the question is there is such thing as a true narrative to begin with as narratives

No there isn’t. There is truth and then there is people too lazy to do the investigation that uncovers the truth because it takes real work, real people, time and energy and unfortunately is not profitable.


There is only thermodynamic truth, but it rapidly decays with entropy. Most things people assume are less true than they believe


All the investigative journalism I know about exists mostly in dirty "lefty" or "Centrist lefty" orgs like NYT, WaPo, Reuters, etc.

All the "righty" or "conservative" orgs i know about are mostly opinion pieces.


Beware filter bubbles. If you're in the Blue Tribe bubble then you'll see conservative sources, but only when they're saying something contentious if not blatantly false (and so you'll also only see the Red Tribe sources who say such things), because that's what causes fellow Blue Tribe members to bring them to your attention.


No, I mean, what are right wing investigative journalism publishing sources? Can you point me to any?


Well, let's look at the most obvious right-wing publication. Here you go, original news reporting:

https://www.breitbart.com/tech/2019/05/17/exclusive-facebook...

https://www.breitbart.com/tech/2019/06/13/exclusive-facebook...

https://www.breitbart.com/tech/2018/09/12/leaked-video-googl...

I just noticed that they even publish stuff in opposition to Trump: https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2018/12/11/exclusive-text...

Note that I found "right wing investigative journalism publishing sources" to be ambiguous, because you could mean a "publishing source" as in a place that publishes things or specifically that you want a list of references as found in academic papers or on wikipedia. If I guessed wrongly, perhaps you could clarify.


I openly admit im fairly left wing, But I also can not think of a single serious major investigative right-leaning news org.

I'd love counter examples, This is not about filter bubbles.

EDIT: on Further consideration, the Wall Street Journal and the Economist might qualify, but they typically don't seem to do expose pieces.


Reason, Cato (especially worthwhile: https://www.cato.org/people/julian-sanchez), The American Conservative, they exist.

Even Fox News does some actual investigative reporting, notwithstanding that most of their airtime is spent on opinion and propaganda.


"Even Fox News does some actual investigative reporting, notwithstanding that most of their airtime is spend on opinion and propaganda."

I actually read Fox News daily for a few months to try and see this, but I didn't, and eventually stopped after they autoplayed played someone getting fatally hit by a truck on their front page.


Yeah, Fox News is pretty crap in general. You're not going to find happiness on the front page. But there is this:

https://www.foxnews.com/category/news-events/fox-news-invest...

Where you find things like this:

https://www.foxnews.com/us/veterans-face-more-delays-on-agen...

https://www.foxnews.com/us/jon-stewart-burn-pit-victims-psa

It's not sexy contentious lies, it's factual reporting about veterans and 9/11 first responders. So naturally, it doesn't get promoted by algorithms designed to push clickbait to the fore.


Reason and cato are not investigative journalism, they are policy research, its not comparable.


I wouldn’t consider Cato “Right


Both of the major parties are Big Tent parties. The Red Tribe institutions that look similar to major Blue Tribe institutions are going to be the ones operated by fiscal conservatives, libertarians, veterans organizations, etc. If you want news from religious conservatives, there is an organizational structure that as far as I can tell has no Blue Tribe analog -- a mostly-decentralized network of localized institutions called churches.


Public schools


That would certainly say a lot about the nature of the fight over school vouchers.


well if you believe in a secular education, go to school. If you believe in a religious education, go to church


That is what they do. But then they want to know why the secular schools get so much more of their tax dollars than the parochial schools they want their kids to attend.


No they don’t. They want access to the public’s money.

It would be more helpful to think of churches/parochial schools as businesses.


They are the public. It's their money.

If parochial schools are businesses then school vouchers are sending retirees social security checks rather than operating state-run homes for the elderly. It allows people to buy what they want in the market (from businesses) instead of being restricted to a choice between a government facility and nothing -- not even a refund of the tax dollars not needed to pay for it when you don't use it.


No, i don’t get a refund from the fire department because my house doesn't burn. An educated populace is beneficial to the nation.

People are free to choose as it is. No reason to provide the public’s democratically distributed money.


>Reason, Cato

Reason and Cato are corporate funded think tanks pushing a corporatist agenda. If you look at CATO's front page piece right now, for instance, it's not an investigation it's an opinion piece on how hard it is to complain in the WTO inspired by their backers:

https://www.cato.org/publications/free-trade-bulletin/trade-...


The point isn't that they never publish an opinion piece, it's that they do publish investigative reporting, like this:

https://www.cato.org/blog/why-nsa-deleting-call-records

You also get pieces like this, which are full of factual information whether or not you agree with their policy position:

https://www.cato.org/publications/policy-analysis/new-nation...

And it's hard to see which "corporatist agenda" pieces like this are pushing:

https://reason.com/2019/11/21/with-this-forfeiture-trick-inn...

Which isn't to say that they're unbiased. Everybody has an opinion. But everybody has an opinion; that's why you need more than one news source.


There's massive amounts of special interest money being funneled into publications on every side of issues, local and national. That's the reality we have to live with. See Politico's latest reveal of "dark money" also going toward left-wing policy activism and media coverage [1].

That doesn't mean we should totally ignore what media and think tanks have to say, they can still produce good critiques and investigations -- whether Brookings or Cato. Even explicitly partisan muckrakers like Greenpeace or O'Keefe's Project Veritas occasionally expose a valid case of wrongdoing no one else noticed. These organizations are very selective and hyperbolic in what they focus on, due to their narrow mission and ideology and the natural limit of time/energy, but if you combine all of their varied output you can get enough slices to approximate the pie.

[1] https://www.politico.com/news/2019/11/19/dark-money-democrat...


/"the most important thing I think Google must do is to disable targeted political ads if they continue to allow them in any shape or form."/

...uh, isn't that exactly the policy announced here?


No. They are restricting just one type of targeting.

>Google is extending a ban on political campaigns targeting advertising at people based on their supposed political leanings.

>It said political groups would soon only be able to target ads based on "general categories" such as age, gender and rough location.


> Just ban them completely or don't bother

Wait, you mean ban all ads completely and make Google lose 100 billion dollars of revenue and make advertisers waste more money on non-targeted ads increasing costs of products and make users pay subscription fees for currently ad funded services like Google Search? Otherwise I don't see how your statement makes any practical sense


100 Billion is a vast overstatement.


In 2018, google sold 118 billion worth of ads. Parent was saying (I think) that all ads present misleading narratives so google would have to ban all ads.


Over a decade, from politics, that amount is high, but not unreasonable.

Phrased in terms of opportunity cost, it's appropriate, again if a bit high.

Media gets YUGE dollars from politics. That flow of money in politics is one of the biggest problems in the US.

Many want to fix it. That risk, in terms of the financial opportunity assessment under discussion right now, would reasonably ratchet that number down further.


Is it though?

> A staggering $24.1 billion of Google's $27.77 billion revenue for Q3 2018 was from advertising – roughly a 22% increase from $19.8 billion in Q3 2017.

source: https://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/020515/busin...


Right. All ads are political by definition. So it’s really a ban on opposing ideology, and on overtly ideological ads which are really not so much of a problem. I think it’s a non-change from the current system, mostly a pr move.


Then there’s also the concept of truth that is factually incorrect. Like authors and comedians using made up/constructed anecdotes to convey a deep truth about society.

A great example is the lady scientist character from the Chernobyl series. She herself was a fabrication, but represented the factual voices of opinions of hundreds of USSR scientists. Because you can’t write a story with 200 main characters.


To be clear, you're in FAVOR of their policy that doesn't allow a rouge actor to, say, run ads targeted to a specific community that tell them Election Day is Wednesday, rather than Tuesday, right?

You're just opposed to the extra measure of removing ads that are based on their fact-checks of political issues? I favor removing on the basis of both, but I do think these are VERY different categories.


If they were an "[azure] actor who ran ads targeted to a specific community", should we suddenly be neutral? What difference does the color of the actor make?


I believe the poster above you meant "rogue", as in malicious but not strictly associated with a specific party.

In any case, it is almost impossible for someone to be truly neutral, especially in US politics. Having a company decide that they are the arbiter of this is dangerous. Especially google, which tends to come off as leaning towards one side of the debate.


I had no idea what you comment meant, then I realized I misspelled "rogue." I can't tell if you were joking or actually thought I was referring to cosmetics, but either way, oops my bad.


> I don't want Google to be the judge of the validity of claims as it's perfectly possible to make an add which is 100% made up of technically correct statements but presents a misleading narrative.

What do you find objectionable about a low-pass filter that simply removes obvious lies?


The fact that I don't trust Google (or any other large corporation, for that matter) to judge what is and is not an "obvious lie" given the right political incentives. In this case, outright banning would be better and remove any ambiguity or opportunity for shenanigans.


Not that an outright ban is a good solution either, as there is a large discussion to have about what is and isn't political. Some people see some topics as inherently political, while others would say that they have nothing to do with politics.

So deciding what is and isn't banned becomes an inherently political statement.


This makes the definition of "politics" meaningless. Besides, it's a lot easier to nail down an objective definition (at least for Google's purposes) of what falls under a specific subject (ads are sold on keywords) than it is to nail down an objective definition of "truth".

You can exclude ads that mention or are paid for by any PAC, candidate for public office, or are advocating for or against any particular public policy decision, or mention the topic of elections or voting.

This would eliminate the majority of them, leaving bad actors that don't care about Google's requirements anyways. Another option would be to simply make certain keywords unpurchaseable.


> nail down an objective definition of "truth"

Recognizing the truth or falsehood of a statement or series of statements can be complicated, but we're doomed as a species if an objective definition of truth stops us in our tracks.


When it comes to things in Google's wheelhouse, at least. Their entire advertising platform is based on categorizing ads and where they're supposed to display. This is an entirely different ball of wax than trying to determine if the text of an ad is true or false, and that's before we get into the "true but misleading in context" quagmire.

Besides, we have precedent here. Have a look at their policies surrounding what's allowed in health ads[1], they're pretty extensive, objective, and granular.

[1]: https://support.google.com/adspolicy/answer/176031?hl=en


Thanks, there is some thought-provoking stuff there.


You shouldn't trust any large _institution_ to prevent "obvious lies" from spreading. Institutions are just collections of people, and there's barely a single one out there that's managed to completdly avoid the fact that people are, generally speaking, dishonest and dumb.


I trust The Economist newspaper and the Congressional Budget Office


You'd trust The Economist (or the CBO) to be the arbiter of what other people are allowed to say? That's what my comment says, not "trust any institution to avoid telling obvious lies" (that being said, I've read some pretty dishonest stuff in the Economist, despite generally being a fan).


>You'd trust The Economist (or the CBO) to be the arbiter of what other people are allowed to say?

They already do that with their own employees. They censor and control what statements they print to control for accuracy. Journalism concerns in part determining what true statements we should print. I think the Economist and CBO do a good job of separating the facts from the fiction. I would trust them to fact-check statements. I would not trust CNN or Facebook or the Democrats to fact-check statements.


Ok, so then you have the problem of Google judging what is and is not political.


This is a good point that runs a little deeper than some people appreciate. (moving a topic into the category of "political" can already, today, be a subtle form of censorship in the public sphere)

At the same time, if we're talking about advertising, in the US we can just rely on what constitutes political advertising under the law.


I agree that would be an easy move for Google to make.

I would imagine that there would then be an incentive for potential donors to, rather then giving cash, pay for messages that fly under the radar but are designed to support a particular campaign.


I think you mean high-pass filter?


I guess that just depends on the axis orientation...

But there is nothing inherently wrong about removing pure garbage ads.

Of course, one might object that it would give more visibility to harder-to-discern bad ads, and make the consumer less wary of ads if they are less used to see them with obviously wrong information. Double edged sword as always, and I would certainly ban them. Or every ad, for that matter. But that's google, it is their business model, so what are you expecting?


Quite right.


What constitutes an "obvious lie"?

If China says the majority of Hong Kong support immediate reunification, backed by a statement from the Hong Kong government, is that an "obvious lie"? It comes from what is considered to be an authoritative source of truth.

If Google can overrule a government's statement, by disagreeing with China, does that mean they can overrule the official statement of any government?

That gives them the power, and incentive, to approve some statements that come from the White House, and not others that might damage their own reputation.

Or rather, knowing Google, approval of these goes through a machine, with unknown bias, and suddenly Google is only approving right-wing messages. All Democrat messages get disapproved. Or vice versa.

It places Google in position as the ultimate source of truth, without giving them the responsibility that comes with that.


On the other hand, if google replies to the query "labour manifesto" and the top link is an ad to "labourmanifesto.co.uk" that is actually run by the conservative party, that's the same category of fraud as if I entered "chase bank" and was sent to a phishing site. Allowing that ad in response to that query is defrauding voters.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/tory-fake-lab...

Being the largest source of information in the world while being completely indifferent as to whether that information is true or not is an amazingly nihilistic, amoral position to take.


Absolutely.

I think the most sensible thing for any ad agency to do is to ban _all_ political ads.

It may become difficult for them to differentiate what is and isn't a political ad (an ad for a gay dating app could be construed as a political ad in some nations), but they need to remove themselves from any seat of responsibility.


Based on your questions and comments I get the feeling I am communicating with someone who does not know that journalism exists or how it is supposed to work. What constitutes an "obvious lie"? is not even close to being an intractable problem. Reporting what China said is not the same thing as putting it forward as the truth. Determining whether it is the truth or not is not necessarily an impossible task. Etc. etc.

It's true enough that Google will experience some pressure to kowtow to the governments or powerful interests who have the ability to lean on them, and that is probably a pretty good argument to get out of the business of political advertising altogether. "What is truth anyway, man????" is not much of an argument.


> Based on your questions and comments I get the feeling I am communicating with someone who does not know that journalism exists or how it is supposed to work.

I'll try not to take offense at that.

I'm just someone who has lived under an authoritarian regime where what is "truth" has been actively manipulated by the powers that be - dissenting opinions were made illegal.

> "What is truth anyway, man????" is not much of an argument.

That wasn't the "crux" of the argument.

No advertising company should be in the business of deciding what to report as truth. If they are, complying with local laws about what is "truth" may in fact be completely antithetical to the pretense of fact checking.

The most sensible solution for someone like Google is banning political advertising altogether - not putting themselves in a position where they may be required to act as propaganda mouthpieces.


First you have to define what is an ad and what isnt. I a not being flippant, but with the web, anything published can be an advertisement and frankly, most content seen by people these days could be defined as a form of advertising...


The truth is knowable.


Here here, this attitude that somehow the truth is impossible to know, and that there is no difference between insane conspiracy theories, and researched, documented facts is a pile of horse pucky.


But full ban costs Google money.


Even this restriction costs them money, as the advertisers have either worse targeting, so lower ROI, so they'll spend less, or they'll have to do the targeting work themselves, which removes part of the value chain from Google, so they'll pay less.


I’m not sure if that: if ads are less effective (generalized, less targeted) advertisers (campaigns) will have to spend more money to have the same impact.


Let's be clear, this isn't an outright ban but just a restriction.

> It said political groups would soon only be able to target ads based on "general categories" such as age, gender and rough location.

This just means that the moneyed few with deep pockets and illicit agendas will simply have to spend more to get their message out since they won't have the benefit of niche targeting.


Nah its more complex than that. Micro targeting allows political groups to tailor their message to specific small demographics. They can tune their message slightly for each different group, drastically improving their targeting and voter appeal. When they have to target broad groups, they have to have a consistent message across all of those groups. This hurts their ability to manipulate and pander to sub populations.


I don't buy this argument (for some context, I work in digital politics and my agency buys digital political ads).

You can micro target political speech through non-digital channels such as mail, phones, doors, & addressable cable. Campaigns have been doing this for a LONG time - before the internet.

You can also still target very specific audiences even without 1:1 audience matching a la liveramp. E.g. retargeting, specific website placements, specific youtube video/channel placements, and more.

The one kind of large negative I can foresee with this restriction would be narrowing to likely voters, which is tougher without either an audience match or 3rd party data (though maybe still good enough with 'watches news' or 'visits msnbc.com' and similar). Though one can definitely argue a benefit here that speaking to only an audience of likely voters is a problem (and 'recycles' the same voters not brining new voters in), especially with Democrats who tend to only talk to those voters in VAN.


"You can micro target political speech through non-digital channels such as mail, phones, doors, & addressable cable. Campaigns have been doing this for a LONG time - before the internet."

I think you are underestimating the level of micro targeting that FB and Google employ. If I'm trying to win Florida, theres districts that I know I can get, the gray areas, and the ones I know I will lose. If I go into those gray areas and systematically target small sub groups, to the level of only thousands or tens of thousands in each group, I can flip a whole state.

Theres a reason Google and FB are worth so much, its because all previous advertising is completely inferior to the level of targeting and information they have on their audiences.

'Visits msnbc.com' is no where near what you would need. More along the lines of:

Show married females from ages of 32 - 50 in <important county> my opinions on abortion.

Show single men ages 20 - 30 in <important county> my opinions on gun laws (if I'm pro gun).

etc...

Not only is this more accurate than older methods, its much cheaper. I can get instant feedback on which ads are working, iterate and tailor my message.


you can target those exact same small sub groups over the mediums I listed. I can pull a list of females 34-50 in county, zip, or neighborhood (whatever specific to the 1:1 human is my point). I can give that list to comcast/other addressable TV, I can call them, I can mail them, I can knock doors.

For reference I buy political digital ads for a living. I'm by no means saying I'm the best or I know everything but my point is this type of individualized campaigning has existed (and still exists) for other 'traditional' political messaging mediums.

Sure digital has better toolsets to optimize/try tons of creative. That's a valid difference. Cable that would be hard to do for instance (CTV is easy...). Phone scripts are optimized and tested fairly in depth if done right but not usually to the level of 100 different scripts.


Well, it also means these tactics are less likely to go unnoticed. If some ads are actually a turnoff if seen by the wrong people then running them is riskier.


Oooo! So they make even more money since the advertisers can’t target the ads and have to use more but less effective ads!!! That’s a nice side effect for business while pretending you’re being noble. Ah, the joy of signaling.


...or the relative value of Google's ads is decreased and advertisers take their money elsewhere


Seriously... My "favorite" part of posts about Google on HN is the posts that combine blind ignorance about the ads business, blind hatred of Google and pat-yourself-on-the-back cynicism. It gets _so_ tiresome.


I love the meta debate about HN. I frequently click out of a thread after reading the first half of the first comment, it's always the same thing over and over. HN is a great as an aggregator of interesting article, but the discussion is frequently lacking substance.


I'd slightly disagree; the reason I complain about it so much is because there are so many people here who are clearly intelligent and thoughtful and have interesting perspectives. I go back and forth on whether picking gems out of the piles of manure is worth it.

In part, I've been badly spoiled by another forum I participate in that heavily moderates tone (and tries to separate it from content). I wouldn't have guessed it, but it turns out that low-effort intellectual dishonesty and rank stupidity of the sort that annoy me here correlate pretty well with emotional incontinence, which means that the occasional low-quality commenter that pops up on that forum gets washed out pretty quickly.


I think we're in an advertising bubble right now. The internet business model is going to need to change soon.


By that logic Google, and everyone else, have been hurting themselves by offering targeting in the first place, and continue to do so by not restricting non-political advertising.


Its not about getting your message out, its about manipulating elections by military contractors, including last big two (brexit, Trump).

You can familiarize yourself with the issue by watching The Great Hack (2019) on Netflix, or even a panel by Computer History Museum: "CHM Live | The Great Hack" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y26NQdTLtaw


I wish ad and social media companies would just tag ads (and ideally more popular articles) similar to how reddit mods can tag submissions. "Misleading", "Information cannot be verified", "Factually incorrect", "Paid for by XYZ", "Satire" etc. I would say they can probably do this with machine learning or some sort of crowdsourced system, but I feel like that is wide open to well poisoning attacks. Might be easiest and most accurate to send ads that get enough reports to a human to do tagging (or not if they don't think it is appropriate). Have several employees do tagging and if enough give the same tag, apply it. Warn all advertisers their articles can be tagged if they don't make an honest effort to accurately represent whatever it is they're advertising. It isn't perfect system, but I think it could work.


> Have several employees do tagging and if enough give the same tag, apply it.

When the scope of what you're tagging is expansive enough, inter-rater agreement isn't as useful as you'd think, primarily because you get correlated biases across your rater population.

These days the pendulum seems to have swung towards the left being fond of censorship and advocating for institutional control of "truth", so to use a left-coded example: good luck finding finding a population of raters in the US that doesn't fail the Implicit Association Test[1] wrt anti-black racism.

The "obvious" answer is to make sure your raters on each ad are balanced wrt biases, but doing so upon every axis that Google ads may refer to is literally impossible. You probably can't even articulate all the relevant axes.

It seems to be hard for people to imagine any ambiguity or flaws in the official truth that contemporary institutions push, so an easy thought exercise is to consider what this sort of an approach would have looked like during the Cold War, or even post-9/11. If you think those are anomalies and that we're in a post-lies, universal-truth era, I don't know what to tell you other than to suggest picking up a history book and realizing that there's never been such a thing.

[1] I'm aware of the flaws of this test and the associated studies, but what matters here is the perception of its usefulness.


Imagine the outcry if Google were to label an ad for Fox/Breitbart/Daily Caller/Trump as "misleading" or "factually incorrect". (Indeed I might get called out even here on HN for my "bias" given that I highlighted right-wing publications and politicians.)

That is a dragon you don't want to tickle.


No media outlet is immune to posting what may be considered factually incorrect information, for example, earlier this year as highlighted in [1].

Deciding what is "true" or not these days is incredibly difficult if not impossible when we have a POTUS who wants to control the narrative and calls what could be considered factually correct as "fake news".

Even reporting the "facts" has become incredibly difficult, especially when digital data is so easily manipulated (for example, how can we verify the integrity of a 'tweet' as it was published at a particular second in history? Is there a hash that should be provided? Screenshots can be easily manipulated, as some articles embed the tweet itself and can be later modified, even Spez on Reddit admitted to editing the database).

[1]: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-46935701


Everyone wants to control the narrative; this is simply the first time you've been faced with a right-wing POTUS that is capable to some extent of doing so, and it's helped you forget that all political parties are putting forward a narrative, because partisanship is a hefty drug. This is nothing new, which is both good and bad; it's not a novel crisis, but it's also something we can't get rid of.


Change the terms, and give the audience a button to punish the advertiser. I would totally click a button that says "charge this advertiser an extra dollar for being misleading".


I do believe this will strengthen propaganda to be honest. I don't think I ever noticed a political ad from Google (not US based), but I am pretty certain that Google will ban those advertisements that are not in their interest. Google has close contaxts to many political circles.


I posted this link on HN before and was downvoted. Here it is again.

https://wikileaks.org/google-is-not-what-it-seems/


I really don’t like Hillary and I refuse to use google.

I do enjoy reading DARPA funded research on occasion.

Smear starts here:

“ Nobody wants to acknowledge that Google has grown big and bad. But it has. Schmidt’s tenure as CEO saw Google integrate with the shadiest of US power structures as it expanded into a geographically invasive megacorporation.”

This is actually a systemic problem and seems more like a passive criticism of the US overall. The interesting tactic here is the Hillary+Obama+LiberalGoogle to get those divisive flames going.

Then it paints DARPA research as bad by trying to connect it directly to intelligence. WHAT defending your country is bad now?! Look at what you’re implicitly agreeing to if you accept this. Say NSA is bad or oversteps bounds or hacks to much or whatever those are separate arguments.

DARPA research is good stuff and supporting defense technology is too.


> The firm said it would also clarify under what circumstances it would remove political ads for making "false claims".

Oh great, this means they will apply the same rules to regular ads, right?


>> The firm said it would also clarify under what circumstances it would remove political ads for making "false claims".

>Oh great, this means they will apply the same rules to regular ads, right?

So ban all ads altogether :)


They are claiming the rules will be somehow similar:

> Whether you’re running for office or selling office furniture, we apply the same ads policies to everyone; there are no carve-outs. It’s against our policies for any advertiser to make a false claim—whether it's a claim about the price of a chair or a claim that you can vote by text message, that election day is postponed, or that a candidate has died. To make this more explicit, we’re clarifying our ads policies and adding examples to show how our policies prohibit things like “deep fakes” (doctored and manipulated media), misleading claims about the census process, and ads or destinations making demonstrably false claims that could significantly undermine participation or trust in an electoral or democratic process.

https://blog.google/technology/ads/update-our-political-ads-...


This is already part of their stated policy.


This should be up to the FTC to enforce existing laws (in non-political advertising). Not a for-profit company. If the laws aren't adequate or enforcement isn't adequate I believe it's up to our Government to fix.


Exactly how would Google determine whether an advertisement is political in nature?


I can see this hitting legal businesses, like gun stores and abortion providers. Advertisements for those are equally political, but I really doubt that Google would judge it that way.


Google should create a department of truth, so everyone has a single source of objective truth. That should help put everyone at ease and make it easier to create a department of peace and love.


Google will be totally neutral fellas despite:

1. Some 95% of employees being registered Democrats

2. 100% of senior leadership being Democrat. Heck, they even wept publicly after the 2016 elections.

3. They've never refuted contents of leaked tapes exposing bias - just keep denying that the said bias is company policy. [1][2][3][4]

[1]: https://youtu.be/CX6LlEcJ4nw

[2]: https://youtu.be/IzF7nBmwPso

[3]: https://youtu.be/SY82j7NUtCQ

[4]: https://youtu.be/ik_kzn3etsE


95% political affiliation already off the bat is suspicious. Who measured? How did they measure? Google certainly wouldn't, as asking your employees political affiliation would be illegal.

And not just affiliation, but registration? What about employees in non-US countries? They are registered with a US political party?

If you're going to just make stuff up, why not say 100% at that point?


I was referring to Google USA, as the timing of this announcement right before peak political US ad-spend is quite clearly a stab at US politics.

As for political affiliation, in your estimate, what is Google-USA's make up? Also, if non-US employees are making political censorship decisions on behalf of Google, isn;t the foreign interference? All that intersectional talk from Googlers that has made it into unbiased AI truths(??) in their search autocomplete, like "men can have [periods, babies, ...]" really points to overwhelming Republican bent at Google. Right?


I guess you missed the point: you are guessing at the distribution of political leanings of thousands of people, and then using your guess as "proof" of bias.

Me guessing a different number doesn't change the fact that it would be a guess. It's not evidence of bias, and trying to prove that your guess is true is at best circular logic (they are biased so there must be more Democrats, which in turn... Proves that they are biased??). I reject this idea on the simple truth of making logical arguments based on facts. Guesses are not evidence.

As for the rest of your post, you seem to be confusing search autocomplete with double click ads, which shows a gross misunderstanding of what is even being discussed.


> As for the rest of your post, you seem to be confusing search autocomplete with double click ads, which shows a gross misunderstanding of what is even being discussed

As for this nugget, if shows a gross misunderstanding of what we're debating: whether Google is biased towards one party.

But processing your full response - nitpicking on the exact % of Democrats is a masterful tangent from the crux - that Google is likely not going to censor fairly. And the only reason I can think of for this bike shedding [1] is likely because you know it's true.

[1]: https://bit.ly/2XA2wAx


It's not really kosher to throw out claims with no basis in fact, and then say it's bike shedding if someone calls you on it. If you want to have an intellectual discussion about serious issues, you shouldn't open with making things up that you think make your options look more authoritative.

If we want to have a discussion, we need to start by being intellectually honest. Part of that is not making claims of facts that don't exist.

On a very real level, are you saying nonsense. Do you think that a human is reading what you type into Google and saying "haha, time to auto complete this with my liberal bias!!". How exactly do you think this technology works? And why do you think it had anything to do with this announcement about political ads? There is so much illiteracy to unpack in a short space.


Ignoring the ad hominem suggestions of illiteracy and stupidity only because you are willing to listen.

1. Google is majority Democratic, at least by a spread of 40% (D:R) if you simply assume the employee pool to mirror Democrat:Republican ratios of the counties Google HQ and branches are located in the bay area. [1]. Further, this is only the lower bound, as Google's employee pool tends to be college educated with postgraduate degrees (M.S, PhD, ...), which leans 63% democratic [2]. Further, Google is legendary for it's recruitment of the activist left, and minorities, with an even greater proclivity towards the Democratic party. So yes - you are bike-shedding when you make a mountain of the 95% claim, because the spread between Democrats and Republicans is large, nay mammoth enough for it to be irrelevant. And I bet you knew all of this, but wanted to engage in trivialities anyways.

2. Google search suggestions show falsehoods on certain terms like "men can " precisely because of manually inserted political bias into training models that the AI is based on. Google has a whole ethics committee whose entire job is precisely this - play "judge" on what AI models are "ethical and fair", manually intervene with oodles of their own corrections & interpretations - never mind the facts behind the issue. Here is the AI ethics committee explaining manual interventions [3], and here [4] is the explanation on why Google search suggestions show what they do, with the AI engineer confirming it 6],despite having ZERO correlation on Google search trends for those terms (tsk tsk manually inserted political bias) . Also note that the contents of this video were the subject of a congressional hearing [5], in which Google confirmed it's veracity, but still maintained political neutrality blaming any appearance of bias on individual employees.

3. "why do you think it had anything to do with this announcement about political ads". It has everything to do with political ads, because Google has been repeatedly caught red-handed in acts of bias against conservatives on YouTube, search results, political ad-spend, ..... (my GGM comment cites some instances). They've confirmed that their news app has an editorial agenda (hint: left leaning), and senior employees have been caught on record stating they'll do whatever it takes to skew the system against a Trump re-election. So yes - in aggregate, Google has a massive leftist basis, and every iota of their business decision making imbibes these biases. My prediction is that they will not censor leftist political ads, but will put any right leaning ads through hell before letting them see light of day.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_locations_by_voter_...

[2]: https://www.people-press.org/2018/03/20/1-trends-in-party-af...

[3]: https://youtu.be/csP4z8dR6X0?t=259

[4]: https://youtu.be/csP4z8dR6X0?t=429

[5]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CX6LlEcJ4nw

[6]: https://youtu.be/csP4z8dR6X0?t=536

PS: The hubris in this statement!! -

> "haha, time to auto complete this with my liberal bias!!". How exactly do you think this technology works? And why do you think it had anything to do with this announcement about political ads? There is so much illiteracy to unpack in a short space.


Who their employee's vote for isn't bias.

Speaking of bias, all of your sources are skewed to the extremes of the political spectrum and I've got to imagine that they are giving a very one sided view of the problem your talking about.


> Who their employee's vote for isn't bias

Oh the double speak here! Do you remember the ouster of Brandon Eich from Mozilla? Or the cancel culture plaguing Chick Filet right now? Why not apply that logic to companies led by conservatives?

Can you imagine the triggering on the matter if Google's employees were 95% Republican?

And all my sources are unedited Congressional testimonies. Feel free to source all 4 hours of them off C-SPAN/PBS. Also note that all claims hold: that Google reportedly gets caught with seemingly biased actions, and never denies the actions in testimonies, just maintains it isn't company policy.


Also give us access to all the ads being run. Part of the insidious nature of microtargeting ads is they get seen by few people outside the community so you have no idea what's being said to respond, rebut or correct.



Thanks for posting this, I was also unaware.

Slightly off-topic, but Facebook offers a similar thing: https://www.facebook.com/ads/library/

I like these additions to ad serving entities, this is an important development. I'm really surprised I was not informed about these ad transparency portals, and that nobody seems to be paying attention to these. I would have wagered there would be various activists using this tool already. None of my news channels have this on their radar.

Does anybody know of other ad transparency portals, or of any projects working with these portals? Whats the likelyhood that these portals vanish into nothing, or behind a paywall or whatever? Are there APIs?


Is that "all ads" or just the ads that get marked as political?


Neat didn't know that existed.


The Conservative Party are currently flouting this “restriction” in the UK general elections: https://twitter.com/rowlsmanthorpe/status/119746934421060403...


I dont understand this argument that political advertising should be broad target only.

TV is often used as an example, but you can target cable to the individual/house, just like online ads.

A huge percent of political speech is individually targeted (phone calls, door knocks, mail, digital, addressable tv). Campaigns and bad actors have been doing deceptive or flat out lying campaigns forever (before the internet). Google 'McCain Bush child robocall' or 'push poll' as simple examples.

Edit: For reference I work in digital politics, my agency buys & creates digital advertising.


Amazing HN feedback, its like people are not aware of whats going on, Mark Zuckerberg wasnt being grilled by Congress for funsies after all. Its about stealing elections, and Google/Fb waking up to the possibility of heavy legal backlash.

At least watch Computer History Museum" CHM Live | The Great Hack" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y26NQdTLtaw


All these companies trying to look cool by restricting "political" adverts while retaining full power to corporate advertising which is 10000% political.


We've moved on from hyper targeted ideologies and pre- and post-truth storytelling to ageism and money/time/quantity as political symbols. Ok boomer. This 'restriction' is simply Google keeping up with the times. Google wants to move from being the narrative controlling, ai job-taking strong man to the biggest fish in the sea that you have to pay to be on.

In a few years it will refine the rules again.


Not really sure if Google is the right gatekeeper for this kind of thing. Google as a company has often take clear political stances.


Why not just ban the mentioning of a competing party in paid adverts?

This works pretty well for above the line advertising restrictions in some contries where brands cannot mention competitors in their ads.

It encourages advertisers to focus on promoting their own merits instead of misinformation about competitors.


Because you don't need to mention a party directly to run a smear campaign.

Most politicians end up with nicknames over scandals. For example:

Ad depicting a pig in mud. "Do we want this in government?"

Mentions no one directly. But if it were run at the time David Cameron was running in the UK, it would be blatantly obvious who it was referring to, to the people on the ground.

Not so much to the people/machines making approvals of these ads from other nations.


But it doesn't stop "concerned citizens" or "non-governmental organisations" from spreading misinformation about others.


Just limit it so that only verified parties can mention their own brands.


That does nothing to stop a "swift boat" style smear campaign that simply doesn't mention anything about the alternative.



Yesterday we had a story about google's anti-union activities and hn was saying how evil and untrustworthy they were. Now hn is praising Google for censoring and being arbiters of truth just because they think Google is going to censor "correctly" or in line with their political leaning. One day google can't be trusted. The next day google should determine the political discourse of countries.


They should ban ads for prescription drugs that cannot show through double-blind testing that they are more effective than cheaper branded or generic drugs.


Cool. When will they stop aggregating all of everyone’s data ever?


[flagged]


Well, yes. Political advertising wasn't nearly as extensive on the Internet in 2012, and the existing US TV media ads weren't exactly honest to start with. But the election of someone with a very high number of associates who have subsequently been convicted of corruption and is himself under impeachment shows that something has gone wrong.

The situation is even worse in countries like the UK which had somewhat-regulated advertising, suddenly being exposed to the Wild West. Reports were going around this morning of the Conservative party buying a misleading ad pointing at their own "labourmanifesto.co.uk". Basically as legitimate as a banking phish site.


>But the election of someone with a very high number of associates who have subsequently been convicted of corruption and is himself under impeachment shows that something has gone wrong.

Are we talking about Clinton, Reagan or Nixon? Since all of those had pretty dirty dealing in the administrations. Are you certain that people that voted for Trump expected a saint and didn't know what kind of guy he was?

If voters got what they wanted then there has been nothing gone wrong.


Those were also bad. If voters want someone who behaves like the law doesn't apply to them then there is definitely something much bigger wrong. But sometimes it seems they do.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burden_of_proof_(philosophy)

Your comment could've been more productive.


I hereby assert that you are wrong. Prove me incorrect.


Or, we could ban ads altogether and really improve society.


So you're willing to pay a subscription fee to use Google Search, Google Docs, Google Maps, Youtube, etc?


Sure, but not everyone can. Realistically Search and Maps should be public utilities.

And quite honestly, Google is completely scamming anyone who pays for my views. They know damn well I don’t see ads, let alone click on them (except through automated means a la ad nauseam).


> Realistically Search and Maps should be public utilities.

That's the most comical thing I've read today. The government controlling search and maps is the last thing anyone should ever want. Not to mention they'll innovate as quickly as they innovate the DMV; no incentive therefore no innovation. Public utilities such as water, gas, and electricity are natural monopolies and priced on a per usage basis, so you'll be paying per search query and map lookup making it a more expensive and worse experience.


> The government controlling search and maps is the last thing anyone should ever want.

Why is this any worse than Google? There are obvious perverse incentives against providing a decent search tool on every page by design.


> Why is this any worse than Google?

- Easier surveillance of citizens

- Easier to censor anti-government speech

- Easier to alter search results for more government propaganda

- Easier to make correlations between search history and crimes for when it's convenient to prosecutors

- Lower quality of service because the government does not have consumer's best-interest in mind

I don't know about you but I prefer to not live in George Orwell's 1984 dystopian world




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