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Google launches new elections ad policy in South Africa

Google has announced the rollout of its election ads policy in South Africa, the first in sub-Saharan Africa. The policy will ensure that, ahead of next year's elections, political advertisers make use of verification, disclosure and transparency tools before being allowed to post ads on the platform.

Election advertising is a crucial component of democratic elections with candidates relying on this medium to raise awareness, share information, and interact with potential voters.

Democratic processes

“Google has always been committed to supporting democratic processes, placing a big focus on creating products and programs that enable people across the globe to engage with these activities through information that is accurate, protecting elections and campaigns from bad actors, as well as assisting campaigns in managing their digital presence,” says country director at Google SA, Alistair Mokoena.

Regions, where the policy was launched, will only allow advertisers to target ads using the following criteria: geographic location , age, gender and contextual targeting options such as ad placements, topics, keywords against sites, apps, pages and videos. All other types of targeting will not be allowed for use in election ads.

“The policy aims to ensure that South African citizens have confidence in the election ads they see on our platforms and we have taken the time to develop extensive measures and policies to tackle misinformation, including false claims about elections and voting procedures that could undermine trust or participation in democratic processes,” continues Mokoena.


While Google has launched similar disclosures and verification policies in the EU region, South Africa is the first sub-Saharan country to launch the policy. A total of 27 EU member countries, India, the UK, New Zealand, Israel, Australia, Taiwan, and the United States have launched similar policies. In Latin America, Brazil was the first country to launch the policy in 2022.

Advertisers who want to get verified will need to go through a two-step process. First, it must be determined if an advertiser is eligible to run election ads within a given country. Second, the identity of the advertiser is verified. Detailed information is required from the advertiser to complete this process, which is explained in more detail at Google's Help Center. Each step of the verification process takes approximately five business days to complete.

The ads will also be compiled in Google’s political ads transparency report, a page created by the organisation to provide more transparency about election advertising displayed across all of its platforms. The page compiles real-time, up-to-date information about election ads purchased through Google's advertising platforms such as Google Ads, YouTube Ads, and Display & Video 360.

The verification process opened for applications on 31 January 2023, with enforcement and verification of South African ads coming into effect today.

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