AEC “disappointed” in Google’s lacklustre support for election investigation

The Australian election watchdog was not impressed with Google’s assistance while investigating a potential electoral breach this year, according to emails obtained by the ABC.

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) was “disappointed in the direct level of assistance” from Google during an investigation into a potential electoral breach during the 2019 Federal Election, according to an email sent by AEC lawyer Andrew Johnson.

The email was acquired by the ABC under a freedom of information request.

aec google email

Source: ABC

“If Google provided a similar level of transparency for political advertising in Australia as for the Transparency Report for political advertising in the United States and India, my request for this information would not be necessary,” Johnson wrote to Google on 2 May 2019.

The email was spurred by a complaint over Google’s advertising network – specifically Google Ads (formerly known as ‘Adwords’) – facilitating a ‘hidden campaign’ – illegal political ads that were not cleared by the Commission. 

According to the Dr Michael Jensen, political communications researcher at the University of Canberra, Google took as long as five days to respond to the inquiry. Facebook and Twitter, on the other hand, were prompt to respond to after similar requests. Instead, Google directed the inquiry to its US offices.

“In making any data request to Google, please note the following: All requests should be addressed to Google LLC. These requests will go to a dedicated legal investigations team that handles these requests,” an email from Google stated, reports the ABC.

Google did eventually respond to the AEC, advising the Commission that it had found no responsive accounts associated with the relevant website following a “diligent search and reasonable inquiry”.

Google would not explicitly comment on the email exchange. Instead a spokesperson told the ABC that Google had worked with the AEC “to connect people with useful and relevant information and help Australians find the information they need to enrol and vote.”

In other regions – the European Union, India and the United States – Google does offer political advertising transparency reports, but not in Australia. The reports detail the volume and expenditure on political advertising from individual bodies across Google’s advertising network.

This year Twitter introduced a similar political transparency tool to its platform in Australia during the Federal Election. Read Marketing’s full coverage »

Need some political advertising antics nostalgia?

Image credit:Rajeshwar Bachu

Josh Loh
BY Josh Loh ON 11 October 2019
Josh Loh is assistant editor at MarketingMag.com.au