- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 26, 2019

The Trump campaign on Tuesday slammed Google’s decision to restrict how political operations reach users during the 2020 campaign, arguing it will stifle democracy, suppress voter turnout and unfairly hamstring President Trump and Republicans who have built a massive digital operation.

The Republican National Committee and the campaign arms for House and Senate Republicans joined Mr. Trump’s team in chastising the search giant for tweaks that make it harder to “micro-target” people based on information such as political affiliation or public voting records.

Instead, campaigns will be limited to targeting people based on age, gender and their general location, or users who tend to read about certain subjects.

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The Trump campaign said the move smacked of lopsided punishment.

“There can be no denying that President Trump and his campaign have built the greatest digital operation in all of politics, and that Google’s decision will disproportionately impact both the Trump operation and all of the Republican candidates and organizations that derive strength from it,” the campaign and GOP groups said. “What’s more, given the growing and documented cases of anti-conservative bias in Silicon Valley, we are highly skeptical that such a ban would be applied equally to conservative and liberal organizations.”

Google, a powerful and popular search engine, said it plans to implement the changes by January.

The Democratic National Committee chided Google days ago, saying tech companies should be focused on regulating false contest on their platforms.

“That approach combats the spread of disinformation without harming civic engagement or limiting the ability of campaigns to connect directly with voters. Tech companies should not reduce the power of the grassroots just because it is easier than addressing abuse on their platforms,” the DNC said in a joint statement with its House and Senate campaign arms. “We call on these tech companies, including Google, to reconsider their decision to bluntly limit political advertising on their platforms, and we invite them to engage in an open and transparent conversation about how we effectively regulate political advertising online.”

Google’s move comes amid broader concern about Big Tech’s role in campaigns, particularly after Russian actors meddled in the 2016 contest.

Congressional Democrats have urged Facebook to step in and thwart ads that offer lies or half-truths, citing in part recent spots about former Vice President Joseph R. Biden and his family’s interactions with Ukraine.

Twitter decided to ban political ads outright.

The Trump campaign said Twitter’s move is small potatoes.

“Google, however, is a serious platform with very deep reach across the entire country,” it said. “In short, Google has made an extraordinarily poor decision which will lead to less-informed voters, lower voter engagement and voter suppression.”

The campaign said the rule changes will hurt people who offer insight into issues they care about, a concept known as “first-party data.”

“By doing this, voters are digitally raising their hand and saying, ‘Please communicate with me,’” the campaign said. “This ensures they can be reached and informed as they have directly requested. Voters can also learn about ways to volunteer on campaigns, about key campaign events and fundraising efforts, and of course, about where and when to vote. Google is now arbitrarily saying this is not allowed.”

The Trump campaign and its manager, Brad Parscale, frequently boast about their extensive digital operation and ability to ferret out voters, so their pushback is not surprising.

However, the campaign insisted the impacts will be far-reaching and hinder the 2020 Democratic primary, too.

“Google should immediately reverse its decision in order to ensure they do not suppress voter turnout during both the Democrat primaries and the 2020 general election,” it said.

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