Tag Archives: Public Policy

An update on our political ads policy

We’re proud that people around the world use Google to find relevant information about elections and that candidates use Google and search ads to raise small-dollar donations that help fund their campaigns. We’re also committed to a wide range of efforts to help protect campaigns, surface authoritative election news, and protect elections from foreign interference.

But given recent concerns and debates about political advertising, and the importance of shared trust in the democratic process, we want to improve voters' confidence in the political ads they may see on our ad platforms. So we’re making a few changes to how we handle political ads on our platforms globally. Regardless of the cost or impact to spending on our platforms, we believe these changes will help promote confidence in digital political advertising and trust in electoral processes worldwide. 

Our ads platforms today

Google’s ad platforms are distinctive in a number of important ways: 

  • The main formats we offer political advertisers are search ads (which appear on Google in response to a search for a particular topic or candidate), YouTube ads (which appear on YouTube videos and generate revenue for those creators), and display ads (which appear on websites and generate revenue for our publishing partners). 

  • We provide a publicly accessible, searchable, and downloadable transparency report of election ad content and spending on our platforms, going beyond what’s offered by most other advertising media.  

  • We’ve never allowed granular microtargeting of political ads on our platforms. In many countries, the targeting of political advertising is regulated and we comply with those laws. In the U.S., we have offered basic political targeting capabilities to verified advertisers, such as serving ads based on public voter records and general political affiliations (left-leaning, right-leaning, and independent). 

Taking a new approach to targeting election ads

While we've never offered granular microtargeting of election ads, we believe there’s more we can do to further promote increased visibility of election ads. That’s why we’re limiting election ads audience targeting to the following general categories: age, gender, and general location (postal code level). Political advertisers can, of course, continue to do contextual targeting, such as serving ads to people reading or watching a story about, say, the economy. This will align our approach to election ads with long-established practices in media such as TV, radio, and print, and result in election ads being more widely seen and available for public discussion. (Of course, some media, like direct mail, continues to be targeted more granularly.) It will take some time to implement these changes, and we will begin enforcing the new approach in the U.K. within a week (ahead of the General Election), in the EU by the end of the year, and in the rest of the world starting on January 6, 2020.

Clarifying our ads policies

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. Of course, we recognize that robust political dialogue is an important part of democracy, and no one can sensibly adjudicate every political claim, counterclaim, and insinuation. So we expect that the number of political ads on which we take action will be very limited—but we will continue to do so for clear violations.

Providing increased transparency

We want the ads we serve to be transparent and widely available so that many voices can debate issues openly. We already offer election advertising transparency in India, in the EU, and for federal U.S. election ads. We provide both in-ad disclosures and a transparency report that shows the actual content of the ads themselves, who paid for them, how much they spent, how many people saw them, and how they were targeted. Starting on December 3, 2019, we’re expanding the coverage of our election advertising transparency to include U.S. state-level candidates and officeholders, ballot measures, and ads that mention federal or state political parties, so that all of those ads will now be searchable and viewable as well. 

We’re also looking at ways to bring additional transparency to the ads we serve and we’ll have additional details to share in the coming months. We look forward to continuing our work in this important area.

Bringing Wi-Fi to the residents of Celilo Village

For the past seven years, I have spent time visiting students in rural communities across Washington State, where I live. I share information about science, engineering, technology and math, and specifically talk about software engineering and the projects Google has launched. It’s a true joy of mine to see students excited about technology, and see their young minds thinking about the possibilities ahead of them. 


When I visit students, I get to combine my experience as an engineer at Google, and as a member of the Google American Indian Network, to bring access to technology to those who may not otherwise have it. As an Elder and an Enrolled Member of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Oregon, I was honored to take part in Google’s latest initiative to bring Wi-Fi and Chromebooks to Celilo Village, a Native American community on the Columbia River. This project will give residents and students the ability to access the abundance of information found online, and improve the digital divide between urban and rural communities.


The village has a historical significance to this part of the country, dating back over 11,000 years. Today, it’s home to nearly 100 Native Americans from many tribes, four of whom are the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Confederated Tribes of Yakama, Confederated Tribes of Umatilla and the Nez Perce Tribe. And until now, the 16 homes in the village had sporadic or no access to Wi-Fi.

Celilo Village schoolhouse

Distributing Chromebooks to village residents in their renovated schoolhouse.

Thanks to a grant from Google, participation from the Google American Indian Network and collaboration with Dufur School, village residents and The Dalles Data Center, all homes now have access to Wi-Fi, and so do their schoolhouse and longhouse. Residents will have access to Chromebooks, and I put together a booklet with instructions on getting online and accessing Google apps.

Daydream VR in Celilo Village

Karen Whitford, a resident and Elder of Celilo Village, tries out the Google Daydream View VR headset.

The idea for the partnership came from Celilo Village resident Bobby Begay, who talked to the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center about funding connectivity for the village. The Discovery Center then worked with Googlers across the company to get the project started, including the Google American Indian Network. We celebrated this special gift with a community event in Celilo Village over the weekend, where we were joined by tribal leaders, policymakers and community members.

My fellow Googlers and I worked directly with the community to get this done, and we plan to keep our partnership going. “I’m excited to see the project come to fruition, but I think even more I’m excited at the opportunity to foster a longer-term relationship with residents of Celilo,” says my colleague Tria Bullard, one of the first Googlers to get involved with the project. We plan to provide more trainings and other computer science-related activities in the future. 

My hope is that with this new window into technology, Celilo Village will continue to grow and thrive for years to come. And who knows: Maybe kids growing up there will become part of the next generation of scientists and engineers.

Bringing Wi-Fi to the residents of Celilo Village

For the past seven years, I have spent time visiting students in rural communities across Washington State, where I live. I share information about science, engineering, technology and math, and specifically talk about software engineering and the projects Google has launched. It’s a true joy of mine to see students excited about technology, and see their young minds thinking about the possibilities ahead of them. 


When I visit students, I get to combine my experience as an engineer at Google, and as a member of the Google American Indian Network, to bring access to technology to those who may not otherwise have it. As an Elder and an Enrolled Member of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Oregon, I was honored to take part in Google’s latest initiative to bring Wi-Fi and Chromebooks to Celilo Village, a Native American community on the Columbia River. This project will give residents and students the ability to access the abundance of information found online, and improve the digital divide between urban and rural communities.


The village has a historical significance to this part of the country, dating back over 11,000 years. Today, it’s home to nearly 100 Native Americans from many tribes, four of whom are the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Confederated Tribes of Yakama, Confederated Tribes of Umatilla and the Nez Perce Tribe. And until now, the 16 homes in the village had sporadic or no access to Wi-Fi.

Celilo Village schoolhouse

Distributing Chromebooks to village residents in their renovated schoolhouse.

Thanks to a grant from Google, participation from the Google American Indian Network and collaboration with Dufur School, village residents and The Dalles Data Center, all homes now have access to Wi-Fi, and so do their schoolhouse and longhouse. Residents will have access to Chromebooks, and I put together a booklet with instructions on getting online and accessing Google apps.

Daydream VR in Celilo Village

Karen Whitford, a resident and Elder of Celilo Village, tries out the Google Daydream View VR headset.

The idea for the partnership came from Celilo Village resident Bobby Begay, who talked to the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center about funding connectivity for the village. The Discovery Center then worked with Googlers across the company to get the project started, including the Google American Indian Network. We celebrated this special gift with a community event in Celilo Village over the weekend, where we were joined by tribal leaders, policymakers and community members.

My fellow Googlers and I worked directly with the community to get this done, and we plan to keep our partnership going. “I’m excited to see the project come to fruition, but I think even more I’m excited at the opportunity to foster a longer-term relationship with residents of Celilo,” says my colleague Tria Bullard, one of the first Googlers to get involved with the project. We plan to provide more trainings and other computer science-related activities in the future. 

My hope is that with this new window into technology, Celilo Village will continue to grow and thrive for years to come. And who knows: Maybe kids growing up there will become part of the next generation of scientists and engineers.

The historic partnership of democracy and technology

In September I joined the 2019 Digital Summit in Dublin, where I was invited to deliver a speech on technology and politics. The Digital Summit brings together stakeholders from across society to discuss technological innovation and the challenges facing all of us. It’s a forum designed to tackle hard questions in a thoughtful, serious, and mutually respectful way. In that regard, the summit built on what I believe to be one of the more constructive and least told stories in modern history—the relationship between technology and politics in society, and the work of policymakers who helped lay the foundation for our digital century.


Over the past 30 years, in democracies around the world, policymakers’ support for the free flow of goods, services, and ideas has created a larger, more diverse, more inclusive digital economy. It’s fostered a world where individuals are empowered through wider access to knowledge, and where start-up entrepreneurs and small businesses can reach customers around the globe. As the World Bank has found, over the past 25 years more than 1 billion people have emerged from extreme poverty—an event unparalleled in human history. That’s due in no small part to the twin rise of technology and trade. And today, with innovations in areas like artificial intelligence, we stand on the cusp of even greater advances.


This amazing story of human progress didn’t come out of the ether. The policies and attitudes of open societies made it possible. From investments in ARPA and the National Science Foundation to the pioneering work at CERN, policymakers created the environment that made invention happen. More than just permitting innovation, they championed the idea of a world in which technology could support greater prosperity, freedom, and individual empowerment. History doesn’t often talk about that, but I think it will ultimately tell the story of how that framework helped unleash the human ingenuity that will help us address the most serious challenges of our time. 


To hear more, watch or read my full speech from the 2019 Digital Summit.

The courage to change: sharing resources for recovery

I didn't know what recovery meant until a friend asked me if I was still "in recovery." Confused, I responded, “Yes, I’m still not drinking, if that's what you mean.” I know now what I didn’t know then: Recovery means life after substance abuse. It means having a clear mind and a healthy body. It means having the foresight to say no to alcohol. It means having the mental clarity to thrive at work and the desire to live a fuller, happier, complete life. 

As someone who has struggled with addiction and embarked on a journey toward recovery, I am so proud that Google is marking National Recovery Month with a new site, Recover Together. I participate in a recovery group at Google and know how important it is for this community to be connected. As part of Google’s ongoing efforts to combat the opioid crisis, today we’re taking an additional step to support those in recovery.

Too many of us have experienced firsthand the devastating impact of addiction—with our friends, colleagues, family members and loved ones. From the first time I filled my water bottle with alcohol and brought it to school at only 14 years old, to the many times I blacked out and woke up in the back seat of my car in surprising locations, I know how deeply addiction affected my life and worried my family.

More than 21 million Americans struggle with substance use. But it is treatable: An estimated 1 out of 14 American adults is in recovery. In fact, people come to Google every day to seek information on addiction treatment, prevention and recovery. Just last month, we saw an all-time high in search interest for “rehab near me,” “addiction treatment near me” and “how to help an addict.”

Top searched questions on addiction

Starting today, you can come to Google to find recovery resources all in one place, beginning with a video series from those in recovery. I felt less alone when hearing others share their stories, and I am grateful to be able to do the same here.

Recovery locator tool

Our new Recovery Locator Tool in Maps. 

We’re also launching two new Google Maps locator tools that will connect people with crucial recovery resources, including: 

  • Recovery Locator ToolA map with locations of more than 83,000 recovery support meetings such as AA, NA, Al-Anon and SmartRecovery, and other services such as school-based and family support. These take place at more than 33,000 community centers, churches, and other spaces—put in your address and you’ll see many recovery services are in your area or wherever you’re traveling.

  • Naloxone Locator ToolA special locator tool will show you locations where you can get Naloxone, the life-saving opioid overdose-reversal drug, without a prescription. All you have to do is type “Naloxone near me” or “Narcan near me” into the search bar in the tool. It already includes 20,000 pharmacies (including CVS, Rite-Aid and Walgreens) in 50 states, and we’ll continue to add local clinics and independent pharmacies. The site will also have more information about the availability and life-saving capability of this medication. Soon, these locations will also be searchable directly in Google Maps.

Finding recovery is a personal journey, and I am so grateful to work for a company that is making resources available to those who need them. In addition to these new tools, the site points to many other resources for those seeking treatment, including a self-assessment screener from the National Institute of Drug Abuse and state-specific Helpline resources and hotlines. 

To anyone at the beginning stages of recovery: This process is hard and tiring and challenging and you do not need to figure this all out alone. From the moment I first connected to the Employee Assistance Program counselor at Google who helped me confront the reality of my addiction, my life has changed in ways that at one time seemed unimaginable. I teach yoga. I run marathons. My life has been enriched by others in the recovery community. My sorrow has been replaced with a joy I never thought possible. And today, my hope is that anyone seeking recovery can find the same help and resources through Google I wanted so many years ago. Recovery is difficult, and it is so much better when we’re all in it together.

Google’s services create choice for consumers, and spur innovation in the U.S.

Google's services help people, create more choice, and support thousands of jobs and small businesses across the United States. Google is one of America’s top spenders on research and development, making investments that spur innovation: Things that were science fiction a few years ago are now free for everyone—translating any language instantaneously, learning about objects by pointing your phone, getting an answer to pretty much any question you might have.


At the same time, it’s of course right that governments should have oversight to ensure that all successful companies, including ours, are complying with the law. The Department of Justice, for example, has announced that it’s starting a review of online platforms.


We have answered many questions on these issues over many years, in the United States as well as overseas, across many aspects of our business, so this is not new for us. The DOJ has asked us to provide information about these past investigations, and we expect state attorneys general will ask similar questions. We have always worked constructively with regulators and we will continue to do so.


We look forward to showing how we are investing in innovation, providing services that people want, and engaging in robust and fair competition.

Maintaining the integrity of our platforms

Protecting our users and the integrity of our platforms is essential to Google’s mission. My team works with others across Google to detect phishing and hacking attempts, identify influence operations and protect users from digital attacks.

When identifying and preventing threats, we exchange information with industry partners and law enforcement, and also apply our own internal investigative tools as well as intelligence from third parties.

Earlier this week, as part of our ongoing efforts to combat coordinated influence operations, we disabled 210 channels on YouTube when we discovered channels in this network behaved in a coordinated manner while uploading videos related to the ongoing protests in Hong Kong. This discovery was consistent with recent observations and actions related to China announced by Facebook and Twitter.

We found use of VPNs and other methods to disguise the origin of these accounts and other activity commonly associated with coordinated influence operations.

Separately, we are continuing our work to protect users against online security threats. This week, Google announced that we have taken action to protect users in Kazakhstan after credible reports that its citizens were required to download and install a government-issued certificate on all devices and in every browser. This certificate enabled the government to decrypt and read anything a user types or posts, including intercepting their account information and passwords.

These actions are part of our continuing efforts to protect the integrity of our platforms and the security and privacy of our users. Each month, our Threat Analysis Group sends more than 4,000 warnings to our users about attempts by government-backed attackers or other illicit actors to infiltrate their accounts. This is the warning we send if we detect such an attempt:

Security alert

In addition to identifying and detecting the source of threats, we also integrate the most advanced security measures into all of our products so that users are protected automatically. To that end, this month we announced an expansion of the Advanced Protection Program to Chrome to provide extra security for that program’s users when they’re downloading files online. We also just introduced that program as a beta for enterprise customers. Our ​improving ​technology has also enabled ​us to ​significantly ​decrease ​the ​volume ​of ​phishing ​email, and we've rolled out significant protections in Gmail that detect and block over 99.8 percent of attachment malware.

Our teams will continue to identify bad actors, terminate their accounts, and share relevant information with law enforcement and others in the industry.

It’s time for a new international tax deal

Finance ministers from the world’s largest economies recently came together and agreed on the need for the most significant reforms to the global tax system in a century. That’s great news.

We support the movement toward a new comprehensive, international framework for how multinational companies are taxed. Corporate income tax is an important way companies contribute to the countries and communities where they do business, and we would like to see a tax environment that people find reasonable and appropriate.

While some have raised concerns about where Google pays taxes, Google’s overall global tax rate has been over 23 percent for the past 10 years, in line with the 23.7 percent average statutory rate across the member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Most of these taxes are due in the United States, where our business originated, and where most of our products and services are developed. The rest we paid in the roughly fifty countries around the world where we have offices helping to sell our services.

We’re not alone in paying most of our corporate income tax in our home country. That allocation  reflects long-standing rules about how corporate profits should be split among various countries. American companies pay most of their corporate taxes in the United States—just as German, British, French and Japanese firms pay most of their corporate taxes in their home countries. 

For over a century, the international community has developed treaties to tax foreign firms in a coordinated way. This framework has always attributed more profits to the countries where products and services are produced, rather than where they are consumed. But it’s time for the system to evolve, ensuring a better distribution of tax income.

The United States, Germany, and other countries have put forward new proposals for modernizing tax rules, with more taxes paid in countries where products and services are consumed. We hope governments can develop a consensus around a new framework for fair taxation, giving companies operating around the world clear rules that promote a sensible business investment.

The need for modernization isn’t limited to the technology sector. Both the OECD and a group of EU experts have concluded that the wider economy is “digitizing,” creating a need for broad-based reform of current rules. Almost all multinational companies use data, computers, and internet connectivity to power their products and services. And many are seeking ways to integrate these technologies, creating “smart” appliances, cars, factories, homes and hospitals. 

But even as this multilateral process is advancing, some countries are considering going it alone, imposing new taxes on foreign companies. Without a new, comprehensive and multilateral agreement, countries might simply impose discriminatory unilateral taxes on foreign firms in various sectors. Indeed, we already see such problems in some of the specific proposals that have been put forward.   

That kind of race to the bottom would create new barriers to trade, slow cross-border investment, and hamper economic growth. We’re already seeing this in a handful of countries proposing new taxes on all kinds of goods—from software to consumer products—that involve intellectual property. Specialized taxes on a handful of U.S. technology companies would do little more than claim taxes that are currently owed in the U.S., heightening trade tensions. But if governments work together, more taxes can be paid where products and services are consumed, in a coordinated and mutually acceptable way. This give-and-take is needed to ensure a better, more balanced global tax system.

We believe this approach will restore confidence in the international tax system and promote more cross-border trade and investment. We strongly support the OECD’s work to end the current uncertainty and develop new tax principles. We call on governments and companies to work together to accelerate this reform and forge a new, lasting, and global agreement.


Oversight frameworks for content-sharing platforms

A range of governments, tech platforms, and civil society are focused on how best to deal with illegal and problematic online content. There’s broad agreement on letting people create, communicate, and find information online, while preventing people from misusing content-sharing platforms like social networks and video-sharing sites.

We’ve been working on this challenge for years, using both computer science tools and human reviewers to identify and stop a range of online abuse, from“get rich quick” schemes to disinformation to child sexual abuse material. We respond promptly to valid notices of specific illegal content, and we prohibit other types of content on various different services. A mix of people and technology helps us identify inappropriate content and enforce our policies, and we continue to improve our practices. Earlier this year we issued anin-depth review of how we combat disinformation, and YouTube continues to regularly update its Community Guidelines Enforcement Report.

Tackling this problem is a shared responsibility. Many laws, covering everything from consumer protection to defamation to privacy, already govern online content. Safe harbors and Good Samaritan laws for online platforms support the free flow of information, innovation, and economic growth, while giving platforms the legal certainty they need to combat problematic content. Over the internet’s history, many countries have not only established criteria to qualify for safe harbors, but also developed codes of practice (like the European Union’s Code of Conduct On Countering Illegal Hate Speech and Code of Practice on Disinformation). And companies have worked together, as with the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, a coalition sharing information on curbing online terrorism. Approaches continue to evolve—for instance, earlier this month we joined other companies and countries in signing the Christchurch Call to Action To Eliminate Terrorist and Violent Extremist Content Online.

We’ve previously shared our experiences in order to promote smart regulation in areas like privacy, artificial intelligence, and government surveillance, and I recently wrote about specific legal frameworks for combating illegal content online. In that spirit, we are offering some ideas for approaching oversight of content-sharing platforms:

Clarity - Content-sharing platforms are working to develop and enforce responsible content policies that establish baseline expectations for users and articulate a clear basis for removal of content as well as for suspension or closure of accounts. But it’s also important for governments to draw clear lines between legal and illegal speech, based on evidence of harm and consistent with norms of democratic accountability and international human rights. Without clear definitions, there is a risk of arbitrary or opaque enforcement that limits access to legitimate information.

Suitability - It’s important for oversight frameworks to recognize the different purposes and functions of different services. Rules that make sense for social networks, video-sharing platforms, and other services primarily designed to help people share content with a broad audience may not be appropriate for search engines, enterprise services, file storage, communication tools, or other online services, where users have fundamentally different expectations and applications. Different types of content may likewise call for different approaches.

Transparency - Meaningful transparency promotes accountability. We launched our first Transparency Report more than eight years ago, and we continue to extend our transparency efforts over time. Done thoughtfully, transparency can promote best practices, facilitate research, and encourage innovation, without enabling abuse of processes.

Flexibility - We and other tech companies have pushed the boundaries of computer science in identifying and removing problematic content at scale. These technical advances require flexible legal frameworks, not static or one-size-fits-all mandates. Likewise, legal approaches should recognize the varying needs and capabilities of startups and smaller companies.

Overall quality - The scope and complexity of modern platforms requires a data-driven approach that focuses on overall results rather than anecdotes. While we will never eliminate all problematic content, we should recognize progress in making that content less prominent. Reviews under the European Union’s codes on hate speech and disinformation offer a useful example of assessing overall progress against a complex set of goals.

Cooperation - International coordination should strive to align on broad principles and practices. While there is broad international consensus on issues like child sexual abuse imagery, in other areas individual countries will make their own choices about the limits of permissible speech, and one country should not be able to impose its content restrictions on another.

The recent Christchurch Call is a powerful reminder of what we can do when a range of stakeholders work together to address the challenges of online content. The internet has expanded access to information, bringing incredible benefits to people around the world. And as with any new information technology, societies and cultures are developing new social norms, institutions, and laws to address new challenges and opportunities. We look forward to contributing to that extraordinarily important project.

Presenting search app and browser options to Android users in Europe

People have always been able to customize their Android devices to suit their preferences. That includes personalizing the design, installing any apps they want and choosing which services to use as defaults in apps like Google Chrome.

Following the changes we made to comply with the European Commission's ruling last year, we’ll start presenting new screens to Android users in Europe with an option to download search apps and browsers.  

These new screens will be displayed the first time a user opens Google Play after receiving an upcoming update. Two screens will surface: one for search apps and another for browsers, each containing a total of five apps, including any that are already installed. Apps that are not already installed on the device will be included based on their popularity and shown in a random order.

Android screen

An illustration of how the screens will look. The apps shown will vary by country.

Users can tap to install as many apps as they want. If an additional search app or browser is installed, the user will be shown an additional screen with instructions on how to set up the new app (e.g., placing app icons and widgets or setting defaults). Where a user downloads a search app from the screen, we’ll also ask them whether they want to change Chrome's default search engine the next time they open Chrome.

Chrome

The prompt in Google Chrome to ask the user whether they want to change their default search engine.

The screens are rolling out over the next few weeks and will apply to both existing and new Android phones in Europe.

These changes are being made in response to feedback from the European Commission. We will be evolving the implementation over time.