Google is taking a step back from its complete ban on coronavirus advertising. Since the outbreak, the search giant’s advertising space has been closed off, with White House information the only thing appearing at the top of searches. However, after accusations of bias, it’s reconsidering its move.
According to Axios, a memo from Google from advertisers said it will begin allowing ads from “government entities, hospitals, medical providers and NGOs” as early as this week. The advertising will be limited to those who want to get relevant information to the public, and won’t be used to promote shady services.
Previously, Democrats criticized Google for promoting President Trump’s message, but not allowing ads that criticize the government’s approach. Whether or not those will be allowed now is unclear, as ads’ primary focus should still be information sharing. Either way, the middle ground should let those actually trying to help users get the word out without allowing for harmful messaging.
However, sources talking to Axios say Google is planning to go beyond that. In the coming days, it expects Alphabet Inc. to outline how it’ll phase in consumer brands and other groups for search terms related to Covid-19. The company later hinted at as much to The Verge.
“We’re planning to allow other advertisers, including political organizations, to run ads related to COVID-19. We will have more information to share on this in the next few days,” a spokesperson said.
Many will be naturally skeptical about the potential to profit from a global pandemic. Some businesses will see it as an opportunity to promote help they’re providing, but others will inevitably want to make up for their losses. It’ll be interesting to see what limitations will be in place when they return, but in the meantime, Google is working with Microsoft, Reddit, and Twitter to combat Covid-19 fraud.