- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 4, 2019

Google has reversed course after rejecting a hunting advertisement for being in violation of the company’s rule against promoting animal cruelty.

The tech giant clarified its ad policies in a statement Friday evening after spurring complaints from U.S. Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Greg Gianforte, Montana Republicans.

“Google doesn’t have a policy prohibiting hunting ads. We do have a policy against ads that promote animal cruelty or feature gratuitous violence towards animals. In this case, we made a mistake and the ad is now approved to run,” a Google spokesperson told Montana’s KULR-8, the outlet reported.

“We always encourage advertisers to appeal if they feel that an ad was wrongly disapproved — this helps us improve our systems and processes.”

Mr. Daines and Mr. Gianforte had co-signed a letter sent to Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google, following reports earlier Friday about the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, a conservation and pro-hunting group, being told that an ad it proposed running on Google was disapproved because of guidelines allegedly prohibiting anything hunting related.

In a message shared by the lawmakers, a Google representative said the group’s ad was denied because “any promotions about hunting practices, even when they are intended as a healthy method of population control and/ or conservation, are considered animal cruelty and deemed inappropriate to be shown on our network.”

“We are not only deeply concerned with this prohibition, but believe that it is a troubling precedent for the exclusion of an important part of our national identity,” the lawmakers wrote Mr. Pichai. “Google should immediately change this policy interpretation to uphold our hunting and conservation heritage,” they wrote in a letter requesting a meeting with the executive.

Google did not immediately return a message seeking further comment, and it was not clear which of the conservation group’s ads was initially rejected.

“This was absurd,” Mr. Daines told The Washington Times when reached about Google’s reversal. “It shouldn’t take intervention from a United States Senator to get Google to approve ads from a respected sportsman’s group.”

“Congressman Gianforte appreciates Google’s prompt response to his letter and its reversal of its decision to ban a conservation group’s hunting ad,” said Travis Hall, a spokesman for his office. “While the immediate request has been fulfilled, Congressman Gianforte looks forward to meeting with Mr. Pichai and Google officials to address the importance of our nation’s rich hunting and conservation heritage.”

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation was founded in 1984 and is based in Missoula, the state’s second largest city. On its website, the group describes its mission as “to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.”

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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