CHICAGO – Responding to Google’s announcement of changes to its policies regarding targeting of political ads, Republican and Democratic members of a bipartisan working group of political consultants and practitioners who specialize in the use of digital media in political campaigns has issued the following statement:

While we applaud Google and other platforms for trying to address privacy and transparency concerns, we believe that the changes announced unilaterally by Google yesterday are not an effective or acceptable solution and will cause or exacerbate other significant problems for the following reasons:

  • Policy changes by Google, other platforms, and regulators should focus on curtailing bad actors and stopping disinformation. Policy changes designed to limit legitimate political communications and dialog are not the right approach for a democratic society.
  • Google’s policy will drive up the cost of political campaigns, making it difficult for less well-funded candidates to compete effectively against candidates and super PACs with access to money and existing infrastructure.
  • Google’s policy makes it harder and more expensive for campaigns to communicate with young voters, people of color, and other voters with specific concerns, hindering dialog and the democratic process.
  • If platforms such as Google and Facebook which have made significant strides in improving ad transparency now bar political campaigns from using their targeting tools, advertising may flow to less transparent platforms, undermining efforts to make political advertising more transparent.
  • Platforms like Facebook and Google have proven to be the best means of building an opt in email list of potential donors and volunteers.  If platforms limit targeting in political campaigns, then the cost of opt-in list-building will skyrocket.  As a result, campaigns may choose non-opt-in list-building methods including buying lists, swapping lists, or even stealing lists. That's bad for privacy and for transparency.  And it shuts out new candidates by freezing in place the advantage enjoyed by established candidates and Super PACs who have already built sizeable lists.

It is our view that, to be effective and appropriate for a democratic society, changes in platform practices and public policies must be made uniform across all digital advertising platforms and systems and must be carefully designed not to unfairly disadvantage campaigns that do not have significant financial resources.  We urge policy makers to pursue those objectives.

Signed by:

Julia Ager
Shannon Chatlos
Kari Chisholm
Alexandra Dildine
Randy Kammerdiener
Thomas Keeley
Carter Kidd
Annie Levene
Jordan Lieberman
Patrick McHugh
Ben Olson
Ned Ryun
Roy Temple
Ben Yoho

Eight of the 14 aforementioned individuals self-identify as on the right side of the political spectrum and six self-identify as on the left.  Biographies are attached.

Statements issued via the Bipartisan Working Group on Digital Political Media & Democracy do not necessarily reflect the views of every member of the Working Group.  Statements reflect the personal views of the individual group members who have signed the statement.  Statements do not necessarily reflect the views of employers of Working Group members.  The objective of the bipartisan group is to identify and highlight meaningful reforms that could receive substantial support across party lines.  Accordingly, statements are issued when broad bipartisan support exists within the Working Group.

The Bipartisan Working Group on Digital Political Media & Democracy was initially convened May 22nd to 24th by the Project on Political Reform (now the Center for Effective Government) at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy for the purpose of finding areas of common ground across political parties on policy issues and practices pertaining to the use of digital media in political campaigns. The meeting was co-hosted by the Harris School’s Center for Survey Methodology.