Google adds political data to transparency reports

Google has updated its twice-yearly transparency report to include data on who is buying political advertising in the US and how much is being spent by those looking to influence upcoming US elections.

The move by Google echoes similar steps taken by Facebook and Twitter, both of whom have pledged to offer more transparency when it comes to political advertising in the wake of the fake news and Cambridge Analytica scandals. With the threat of increased regulation, the tech firms are hoping that by getting ahead of such requests, they can avoid any concrete legislation.

The new data provided by Google gives details on advertisers who have spent more than $500 (£393) on political advertising from May 31 2018 onwards. The report will be updated every week, with the public able to view new ads that get uploaded, and see as new advertisers are added to the list.

With spending of $629,500, the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, a fundraising organisation for President Trump and Vice President Pence, stood out as the top US political ad spender. The rest of the top five was made up of One Nation (a conservative “dark money” group that spent $440,300), Planned Parenthood Federation of America ($341,600), Rick Scott for Florida ($324,300) and House Majority PAC ($287,800).

Florida saw the most ad spending directed at it, with $1.15m spent on political messaging in the state, almost double its nearest rival Tennessee, where $593,200 was spent. While most keyword-targeted spending focused on particular candidates, the top keyword was “ACLU”, the American Civil Liberties Union.