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Google said to be easing restrictions on ads related to coronavirus pandemic

Google’s complete ban on every piece of advertising related to Covid-19 has created concerns about silencing political voices among Democrats and effectively muted consumer brands and nonprofits. The company is now slowly reversing that ban to take some pressure off on an already strained advertising industry.
Google is said to have started a gradual process of relaxing its ad policy after placing an outright ban on everything related to the coronavirus pandemic. The company started enforcing the new rules in January as part of its sensitive events policy, which was specifically designed for events like these when people are looking to capitalize on necessities in the short term.

But as the pandemic drags on, the search giant realized the ban would actually prevent the flow of useful information, which is why it will now adjust the enforcement of the rules “to ensure that we are protecting users while prioritizing critical information.”

The first step is to allow ads that can qualify as public service announcements and health information from government entities, NGOs, and hospitals. Recently, Google Head of Industry Mark Beatty sent a memo (spotted by Axios) to political advertisers explaining that, for the time being, it will prioritize ads from entities that are directly involved in solving the coronavirus pandemic.

The company is planning to further relax the rules so that consumer brands can also run ads related to Covid-19, but it’s still working out the last details of the new policy, which will be announced in the next few days. This would take even more pressure off of the advertising industry, and comes just as Google and Facebook – which are dominating the online space – are expected to lose around $44 billion in combined ad revenue.

In the meantime, Google is enlisting the help of teenagers at MediaWise to fact-check all claims about Covid-19 that pop up online. Sure, this isn’t on nearly the same level of organizations like Snopes or Politifact, but every little bit helps.

The company is also pouring $6.5 million to fund nonprofits and other organizations fighting misinformation online, with the sole focus on the novel coronavirus. The effort is targeted and prioritizes regions that are hit the hardest by the pandemic, giving local newsrooms easy access to ample search trends data and visualizations.