Dear Mr Pichai (CEO, Google)
We, the undersigned, call on Google to stop funding election misinformation.
Trust in democracy is under threat. Misinformation about mail-in ballots could suppress voter turnout in the US elections, while conspiracy theories about electoral fraud and the rigging of the election undermine trust in the democratic process. This risks a break in the peaceful transfer of power.
The falsehoods and conspiracy theories fuelling this can be found on "clickbait" websites which make outrageous claims to generate traffic for their ad-funded sites.
In your policies you claim that you will not monetize websites which “make claims that are demonstrably false and could significantly undermine participation or trust in an electoral or democratic process.” But you are failing to enforce your own policies.
Global Disinformation Index estimates 145 websites containing disinformation about the election are profiting from Google Ads. Analysis by the Center for Countering Digital Hate has found that just six of those sites could be receiving millions of dollars a year from their business with Google, while Google itself will also be bringing in millions from the arrangement. By placing Google Ads on misinformation websites, you undermine democracy through the spreading of falsehoods.
What’s more, you risk the reputation of your clients, whose brands you place next to harmful and dangerous content. The Center for Countering Digital Hate found adverts for Yamaha next to false claims that mail-in voting is being rolled out to allow one party to “steal the election,” North Face next to an article labelling the election a “fraud,” and Kia adverts appearing on an article promoting the conspiracy theory that George Soros is behind the roll out of mail-in ballots because “voter fraud is the answer to his diabolical agenda.”
There is no right to profit from lies. You are failing to enforce your own policies. Please help protect democracy and stop placing adverts on websites which publish election misinformation.
Read the report
Read our report exposing how Google’s Ads service is placing adverts on, and therefore funding, websites publishing election-related misinformation. Google also profits from each ad.
Trust in democracy is under threat. Misinformation about mail-in ballots is being spread online in order to suppress voter turnout, while conspiracy theories about electoral fraud and the rigging of the election undermine trust in the democratic process. This risks a break in the peaceful transfer of power.
We have identified six websites that display Google Ads and publish potentially dangerous misinformation about the US Presidential Election. Those sites received 40 million visits last month, enough to generate up to $5 million in annual revenue from Google Ads.
We call on Google to stop placing adverts on these sites. If you agree that democracy needs defending, then sign our open letter to Sundar Pichai, calling on him to act now.