January 29th, 2019
Concerns about disinformation run high ahead of elections, a time when secure access to authoritative information is essential. Over the past few years, as more attempts to disrupt democratic processes have come to light, the scale of our response has increased. The upcoming European Parliament elections in May of this year are a big focus for our teams.
Dedicated elections teams clamping down on abuse
Our work to prevent election-related abuse ahead of and during elections means teams and subject matter experts across Google are working closely together. These teams, many of whom are based in Europe, are trained to identify and stop a wide range of potential abuse that can range from State Sponsored phishing attacks to attempts to alter Maps so people can’t find their polling station. We’re also constantly working to get people to authoritative content and improving our systems to combat the effects of disinformation. We’re staffed so we can get ahead of abuse, clamp down on malicious activity, and react rapidly to breaking threats. Google’s Trust & Safety teams have long worked in partnership with Google Security’s Threat Analysis Group (TAG) and our partners at Jigsaw to identify malicious actors, disable their accounts, warn our users about them, and share intelligence with other companies and law enforcement officials.
Project Shield for political campaigns, journalists and NGOs in Europe
Journalists, campaigns and political parties, NGOs and election monitoring groups ensure people can stay informed during election periods. It’s never been more necessary to defend these groups from digital attacks that can exploit many thousands of computers to overwhelm a website’s servers and take it offline—preventing voters from getting official information when they need it most. Project Shield uses Google’s infrastructure to protect independent news sites from distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS) and from today, Jigsaw will be offering strong, free DDoS-protections to the organizations across Europe that are vital to free and fair elections. You can find out more about Jigsaw and apply for Shield protection here.
In-person security training from Google experts
Because it can be hard to know how to be safe online, we’re running in-person and online security trainings for those most at risk around the upcoming elections. Like how to use our Advanced Protection Program, which gives Google’s strongest security for those that need it most. So far we’ve trained close to 1,000 campaign and election officials, journalists and people from election-related NGOs in Europe in-person, so they can learn which security tools they need and how to use them. Our goal is to support these groups in keeping their information secure and enable them to publish freely so that people can access the stories, debates, policies, and results when it matters most.
A new verification process for advertisers in the EU parliamentary election
People want to better understand the political advertising they see online, so we’re introducing a new policy and process to verify advertisers for the EU parliamentary election. Anyone wanting to run EU parliamentary election ads on Google’s platforms must provide documentation to show they’re an EU-based entity or citizen of an EU member country – and we will provide disclosures on each ad to make it clear to voters who are paying for the advertising. This includes ads for political organizations, political parties and individual candidates and politicians. There’s more to come: in a few months’ time, we’ll introduce an EU Election Ads Transparency Report and a searchable ad library to make this information as accessible and useful as possible to users, practitioners, and researchers wanting to know more.
Supporting elections in Europe and around the world is hugely important to us. We’ll continue to work in partnership with the EU through its Code of Practice on Disinformation, including by publishing regular reports about our work to prevent abuse, as well as with governments, law enforcement, others in our industry and the NGO community to strengthen protections around elections, protect users, and help combat disinformation.