Global Project Against Hate and Extremism research reveals hate and extremist groups advertising on Google
Google has been running, and profiting from, ads placed by far-right extremist groups. While many of the ads are eventually taken down, the hateful rhetoric has already reached millions of people, contributing to the spread of lies and disinformation. In July 2023, National World reported that Google was running ads for the fascist, anti-immigrant, and anti-Muslim group Britain First, an outfit thrown off Facebook in 2018 for posting content “designed to incite animosity and hatred against minority groups.” Britain First is not the only far-right extremist group that Google has allowed to run ads on its platforms, including Google Search and YouTube.
A GPAHE search of the Google Ads Transparency Center focusing on European groups profiled in our country reports, exhibiting a range of bigoted and hateful ideologies, revealed multiple far-right actors running political and non-political ads that violate Google’s ads rules. However, the Ads Transparency Center is quite opaque about where on Google platforms the ads show up and does not disclose where violative ads ran or why they were removed. The only information provided is whether the ad was an image, text, or video and a link to the Google ads policies.
Google’s policy states that ads are reviewed within one business day through “Google’s AI and human evaluation” in order to “help protect our users and keep our ad platforms safe.” But GPAHE research shows that this doesn’t seem to be happening. Not only is Google not following their own stated policies of a one-day review for ads, but they are routinely allowing violative ads to run, sometimes for weeks. Given the fact that Google can take days or weeks to identify a violative ad, it is possible that other ads by these organizations are also violative but haven’t been found yet. Even more concerning is Google’s claim that they “take repeat violations of [their] policies seriously” and yet some of the groups we reviewed have dozens of violations to their name.
Google did not provide exact viewership numbers or ad spend for individual ads, but they did provide a range for that data. GPAHE’s research shows that Google platformed 177 ads by far-right groups from 2019 to 2023 that were seen between a collective 55 and 63 million times before the company identified them as violative and took them down. During this time, Google pocketed between 62 and 85 thousand euros to distribute violative material. This might not be a huge sum compared to Google’s billions, but they are still profiting from hate, and GPAHE’s research did not cover all of the possible violative ads and associated revenue.
Despite deplatforming violative ads by these extremist groups, Google continued to accept their money to run other ads, accepting more than nine hundred thousand euros from far-right extremist groups to run ads on their platforms.
Google ads policies claim to prohibit “shocking content,” “sensitive events,” “animal cruelty,” “hacked political materials,” and “dangerous and derogatory content,” the last of which covers any hate speech against groups “associated with systemic discrimination or marginalization,” but our research found that numerous ads violating Google’s terms were platformed for as long as 23 days.
In Germany, the anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), which has been deemed a “suspicious entity” by that country’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution and put under surveillance, and whose youth group was designated as far-right extremist and “clearly xenophobic” by Germany’s Domestic Intelligence Agency had 48 violative ads viewed between 1.5 million and 1.8 million times across 212 days cumulatively before being taken down. This means violative ads by AfD were live for four and a half days on average before Google took action against them. Of the 36 thousand euros spent by AfD to platform 504 ads from 2020 to 2021, Google kept between 500 and 2,900 euros from the ads that were violative.
Another German extremist organization that ran ads on Google is the government-designated far-right extremist group Ein Prozent (short for “One Percent for Our Country”). In 2019, Ein Prozent was banned from Facebook and Instagram for its links to the white nationalist Identitarian movement, which advocates for the antisemitic “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory that argues that white people are being genocided in their home countries due to a plot to “replace” them. The group sued Facebook for its deplatforming decision, but the case was dismissed by a German court on the grounds that “social networks may exclude associations classified by [the networks] as ‘hate organizations.’” The court found that Facebook’s determination that Ein Prozent is “aimed at attacking people based on their ethnic origin or religious belief is justified.”
Apparently none of this information concerned Google. Ein Prozent, which ran four ads, had two violative ads that were live for six days each and viewed between 1.2 and 1.4 million times before being taken down. Despite the organization having their YouTube account terminated in December 2020 after GPAHE brought it to YouTube’s attention and following the release of “Heimat Defender,” a video game they financed featuring characters who are prominent Identitarians like Martin Sellner and Alex Malenki killing members of Antifa, Google continued to platform 2 ads by Ein Prozent in March 2021. Both of these ads ran for 12 days and were viewed up to 400,000 times. Of the 4,450 euros spent by Ein Prozent to platform the four ads in 2019 and 2021, Google made nearly three thousand euros from the violative ads.
The Bulgarian political party and anti-LGBTQ+ group Българска Социалистическа Партия (Bulgarian Socialist Party), whose leader has claimed that “gay marriage is unacceptable and it will never happen,” and whose leadership routinely touts against “gender ideology,” a phrase meant to articulate opposition to gender equality, abortion, surrogacy, reproductive technologies, and LGBTQ+ rights, had one violative ad viewed between 2,000 and 3,000 times over the course of a day before being taken down, spending up to 50 euros for its distribution. All in all, the party spent nearly 16 thousand euros to run 290 ads between 2021 and 2023.
Google has run ads by the far-right Dutch Party Forum voor Democratie (Forum for Democracy)(FvD), whose leader Thierry Baudet has a long history of extremism, including using racial slurs, supporting the idea that people of color have lower IQs, belittling the Holocaust, and spreading the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory in his party’s Facebook posts. He is also known for his anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric and the belief that the European Union is “a Cultural Marxist project, with the aim of destroying European Civilization.” FvD’s six violative ads amassed between 2.5 and 3 million views before Google took them down, with Google accepting between 19,000 and 25,000 euros to platform them. Including non-violative ads, FvD spent nearly 150,000 euros to run a total of 45 ads from 2020 to 2023.
French far-right political party Rassemblement National (RN), which has had members of the white nationalist organization Generation Identity as candidates and is known for its anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim positions, had their violative ad garner up to 200,000 views before being taken down, with Google accepting up to 250 euros for its distribution. Cumulatively, RN ran 44 ads from 2020 to 2023, spending 55,000 euros for their distribution.
Italian far-right political parties, which also make up Italy’s coalition government, Lega per Salvini Premier (Lega) and Fratelli D’Italia (FdI) both advertise on Google. Lega, whose leader Matteo Salvini is vocal against the “dangers of invasion,” an anti-immigrant phrase associated with the terrorist-inspiring “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory, had 94 of their ads violate policy. These ads were viewed up to a staggering 52 million times before being taken down over the course of 800 days cumulatively, meaning their ads were live for an average of eight days before being taken down. Google accepted up to 50,000 euros to platform the 94 violative ads, and 350,000 euros in total to run all of Lega’s 627 ads from 2019-2023.
FdI, which can trace its roots back to Mussolini’s fascist party, and whose leader, Georgia Meloni, engages in rampant Islamophobia by making statements referencing the need to “defend [Italy’s] Christian identity from the process of Islamization,” had their 25 violative ads viewed up to 5 million times across 184 days cumulatively before being taken down. This means that they were platformed on average just over seven days before being taken down. Google pocketed up to 5,000 euros to show these ads, and were paid some 319,000 euros to run 2,494 Fdl ads in total from 2020 to 2023.
Other far-right extremist groups run Google ads, though information on ad spending and target demographics are currently not available for advertisements deemed non-political. Pro Vita e Famiglia Onlus (Pro Life and Family Non-Profit), an anti-LGBTQ+ group based in Italy that has celebrated the restrictions of LGBTQ+ rights in the United States, currently runs 14 ads through the service. Ad content includes climate denialism, blaming the LGBTQ+ community for the gender wage gap, and anti-abortion content such as discouraging women to take ‘Plan B’ pills.
The French anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-immigrant institute ISSEP, which argues that “Islamists” and “leftists” have declared “heterosexual white Christian male[s]” to be their enemy, also runs 10 ads by their president, Sylvain Roussillon. The American far-right news outlet “The Epoch Times”, which published an extensive disinformation campaign about COVID-19, and whose anti-China content has been labeled by some readers as “racist and inflammatory,” has run around 400 ads.
Google’s ad policy covers a multitude of violations, including hate speech. Considering the number of far-right extremist groups motivated by various forms of bigotry being platformed by Google’s Ad Services, it is incredibly worrying that their ads are not adequately reviewed, especially political content. The spread of hate speech and disinformation leads to harms and sometimes violence against marginalized groups. The truth of the matter is simple – Google doesn’t care.
*Note – all figures provided are as of August 2023.