Google said Friday it would stop allowing political ads for an undetermined period of time after polls close Nov. 3 in anticipation of possible confusion or civil unrest while votes are counted and election results are finalized.
Google announced the decision in a message to advertisers, saying it would block all ads related to the election on Google’s search engine, YouTube and all of its other internet ad networks.
“While this policy is in place, advertisers will not be able to run ads referencing candidates, the election, or its outcome, given that an unprecedented amount of votes will be counted after election day this year,” the company said in the letter, which was first reported by the news website Axios.
The decision is intended to prevent confusion in a broad range of possible scenarios, including civil unrest, Google said.
The popularity of absentee or mail-in voting this year is expected to add to the time that election officials will need to count votes. As a result, winners of the election including in the presidential race may not be clear the night of the election.
The FBI cautioned this week that certifying the results of the U.S. election could take weeks and that “foreign actors and cybercriminals could exploit the time required to certify and announce elections’ results.”
Google is invoking an established section of its advertising policies related to “sensitive events.” The policy limits ads when they would threaten to capitalize on a natural disaster or other emergency without providing a discernible benefit to users.
Google said it was unsure how long the ban would last. “We will carefully examine a number of factors before deciding to lift this policy for advertisers and share updates as we have them,” the company said.
Google is the biggest online advertising company in the country, accounting for around 30 percent of all U.S. digital ad spending, according to the research firm eMarketer.