SDP Chairmain Paul Tambyah asks Google why it will not accept political advertisements

Google had invited SDP to its office for a meeting to discuss its services.

Sulaiman Daud | December 04, 2019, 03:24 PM

Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) Chairman Paul Tambyah has questioned Google's decision to not accept political advertising in Singapore.

In an email exchange shared with Mothership by the SDP, Tambyah emailed Google CEO Sundar Pichai to ask about this decision following the SDP's attempt to purchase advertisements on its platforms.

Said Tambyah:

"At the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), we have been highly dependent on social media and the internet to get our message across to the people of Singapore.

As such, we were very disturbed to hear from one of our partners that Google was introducing a new "political content policy" for Singapore which would take effect from 2 Dec 2019."

Google will not accept political advertising regulated by POFMA Office code

Replying to Tambyah, Google's Ted Osius said that the company will not accept advertising that is regulated by the POFMA Office's political advertisements code.

Osius, who is a former U.S. Ambassador and Google's Vice President for Public Policy and Government Relations, said:

"As a company, we support political advertising consistent with our policies and also work hard to ensure that we meet applicable legal requirements around online political advertisements.

Each country has its own legislation when it comes to political advertising. Where applicable, we support political advertising consistent with our policies.

However, in the case of Singapore, we decided we will not accept advertising regulated by the Code of Practice for Transparency of Online Political Advertisements.

Osius added that this was not an "easy decision" to make for Google as it is committed to delivering relevant election-related information to its users.

He also said that Google has made similar decisions in Canada and Taiwan.

Requirements of the code

The Code of Practice cited by Osius does not actually ban political advertisements.

Instead it gives a definition as to what constitutes a political advertisement.

Then these ads are subject to due diligence and transparency measures.

For example, the ads must disclose the name of the person or organisation who paid for it and requested for its placement.

A record must also be made available to the POFMA Office.

"Great disappointment"

In a follow-up reply, Tambyah said that Osius's email was not very helpful, and he read it with "great disappointment."

Tambyah asked if Google could explain which of SDP's ads was "inconsistent" with its policies.

He added that Google Singapore invited SDP to its office to explain its company's services not long before the SDP was informed that political advertisements would be banned.

When contacted, a Google spokesperson told Mothership that Google will not be accepting ads from any political party in Singapore, not just SDP.

Top image courtesy of SDP.