Three out of every four video ads that the United Australia party has posted on YouTube since the end of September have been pulled by Google for allegedly violating the technology giant’s advertising policies, according to Google’s Transparency Report.
Since former Liberal MP Craig Kelly joined the UAP in late August, the party has spent $ 2.684 million on 25 ads displayed on YouTube, increasing the number of views of the party’s videos to millions. Expenditure far outweighs the amount spent by any other political party. The next closest is Labor with $ 60,750.
It is not clear from the report what the removed videos contained or which of Google’s policies they are alleged to have violated.
Labor has previously expressed concern that the UAP was using its platform to undermine confidence in Australia’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, citing videos in which Kelly questioned the safety of Covid vaccines or promoted the drug ivermectin.
In October, Labor’s shadow assistant communications minister, Tim Watts, wrote to Google asking why the UAP was allowed to remain on YouTube, as some videos had already been removed for allegedly violating its policies. In Parliament in October, Watts noted that Kelly himself had said he had received one strike, and questioned why UAP was still allowed on the platform.
“The question is: why does the Hughes and UAP YouTube page member still work after repeatedly violating YouTube’s policies, let alone spending millions of dollars on promoting medical misinformation during a pandemic? Given the Hughes’ member’s experience of spreading misinformation and his intention to match UAP’s election spending in 2019, the potential for harm is obvious, and Google needs to act in a transparent and proactive way. “
It appears that Google is now carefully examining ads from the United Australia party. According to Google’s Transparency Report, 12 of the last 16 ads that UAP has paid for – or almost half of the 25 ads since Kelly became manager – have been pulled by YouTube for violating the company’s advertising policies.
Guardian Australia has sought a comment from the United Australia party.
Kelly has previously told the Guardian Australia that “it is a disgrace and a new low that a political party will ask a foreign oligarch to censor freedom of expression in Australian politics”.
“The idea that an alternative statement from an expert is misinformation is a claim I categorically reject,” Kelly said. He said Labor’s appeal to Google was tantamount to “silencing genuine debate and it will leave the public misinformed”.
The ads had been pulled after the UAP had spent either up to $ 50,000 or over $ 100,000 on each of the ads. Google’s Transparency Report tracks $ 50,000 in political advertising costs.
All but two of the removed ads had between 1m and 10m impressions before removal, the remaining two had between 100,000 and 1m.
The move came after Google removed a series of videos in response to Labor providing a list of videos they claimed violated Google’s misinformation policy. In a letter sent to Watts on November 3, Google’s head of public policy and government affairs, Samantha Yorke, identified six videos Google had removed in response, including a video of Kelly’s private members’ law banning vaccination passports, a video titled “Rowan Dean was entitled to ivermectin “and an interview on May 10 with then-Sky News host Alan Jones, in which Kelly questioned the effectiveness of Covid vaccines.
Yorke said Google had also taken action on its strike policy, but did not specify whether the UAP had any strikes left before it would be banned from YouTube.
Watts questioned how many times UAP and Kelly had to violate Google’s policies before being “kicked off forever.”
“Online misinformation has consequences. “We are currently seeing this happening in the extremism and violent rhetoric that some people are using in recent protests in the Victorian Parliament,” he told the Guardian Australia.