Selena Gomez sent an open letter last night to Google and its CEO Sundar Pichai, asking the tech giant to remove the ads they're profiting off of that spread disinformation about the U.S. election and mail-in voting.
Although we have never met, I just learned that Google is making millions of dollars putting ads on websites that spread disinformation about our election.
I’m hoping you are also just finding this out too.
Please shut this down immediately. The fate of our country depends on it.
Gomez did not call out any ad by name. But Google's approval of a misleading ad about mail-in voting made headlines in August. The Washington Post reported then that Google opted not to remove ads from Protect My Vote, a shadowy organization with ties to the conservative non-profit FreedomWorks, that try to cast doubt on using mail-in voting. (Facebook removed similar ads from the organization.)
The most common variation of the ad, according to Washington Post, has the misleading claim, "Think mail-in voting and absentee voting are the same. Think again! There are different safeguards for each," and then links out to Protect My Vote's site, which attacks the U.S. Postal Service and inaccurately claims mail-in voting leads to "lost votes and lost rights," per the Post. (Absentee voting and mail-in voting are terms used interchangeably for ballots mailed out to voters unable to vote in-person.)
The Post reported that the ads had been appearing on sites about mail-in voting in swing states like Michigan, Texas, and Florida. A source later told Gizmodo they only appeared in Iowa. You can read more about why Google approved the ads there on Gizmodo's site, despite the ads linking out to a site containing disinformation.
A Google spokesperson, Charlotte Smith, told the Post that the company is dedicated to removing ads containing disinformation about the election: “We have zero tolerance for ads that employ voter suppression tactics or undermine participation in elections. When we find those ads, we take them down.” Smith did not explain why the Protect My Vote ads were not removed.
For information on voting, see ELLE's resource hub on When We All Vote.
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