Google’s Blocking Racist Search Ads - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

Google, the world’s largest advertising platform, is taking moves to block ads that target racist searches to help prevent advertisers from profiting from hate.

BuzzFeed ran an experiment that proved Google allowed advertisers to focus on people searching hate-driven terms, like “Jewish parasite” and “black people ruin everything.” While that’s not necessarily an indictment of Google – the Google AdWords platform is largely based on algorithms, not human input – the company has since taken action to disable what they call a “majority” of offensive keywords.

“We’ve already turned off these suggestions and any ads that made it through, and will work harder to stop this from happening again,” said Sridhar Ramaswamy, Google’s senior vice president of ads.

Like Google, Facebook temporarily disabled some advertisers’ abilities – but for a different reason. The social media giant disabled targeting of ads based on people’s education levels, self-reported interests, or other characteristics that have traditionally been used for discriminatory purposes. Also like Google’s, Facebook’s ad platform is run by an algorithm that automatically populates suggested keywords based on what users put on their profiles, the pages they “Like,” and their activity on the social media site.

“Keeping our community safe is critical to our mission,” Facebook said in a statement. “And to help ensure that targeting is not used for discriminatory purposes, we are removing these self-reported targeting fields until we have the right processes in place to help prevent this issue.” (This comes on the heels of Facebook’s revelation that Russian groups had purchased $100,000 in ads in an effort to sway the outcome of the U.S.’s 2016 presidential election, as well.)

What Do You Think?

Is Google right to prevent advertisers from running ads to people who search hateful terms, or is this an example of overreach that curbs the free flow of ideas? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please stop by my Twitter feed or my Facebook page and use the hashtag #GoogleAds to let me know what you think.

Carlos Gamino