The Alternative for Germany (AfD) accused Google on September 19 of sabotaging its election campaign by refusing to post advertisements supporting its far-right political agenda. The AfD has continuously used social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to directly engage with its supporters while efficiently avoiding more serious, critical news outlets. However, AfD officials expressed discontent with Google’s behavior towards the political party, stating that “Google is sabotaging us [and]creating a disadvantage for us relative to our political competition.”
The AfD had hoped to interact with more voters and encourage their public support through a social media campaign. The right-wing party had previously made controversial comments about racism, immigration, homosexuality, and religion, which deterred voters from publicly admitting their support. AfD hired Harris Media, the advertising agency that worked on the Trump election campaign, to increase its presence on social media and attract more recognition through political advertisements.
Google has yet to approve a series of anti-Merkel advertisements, an official website, and a video mocking the AfD’s main opponent in the election. AfD launched an anti-Merkel website, directly attacking and vilifying the German chancellor. The website is accompanied with pictures and videos, calling Merkel a murderer for letting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) cross the German border and instigate terrorist attacks. The AfD expressed its desire to promote this website through search engines, but Google and YouTube disapproved due to “the website’s dangerous and degrading content that could hoax the customer.”
Google’s response to AfD’s outrage was to simply state that they have strictly adhered to their fundamental advertisement policy throughout the process. Google said, “any party certified in Germany can place ads on Google… as long as the political ads comply with the local campaign and election laws for any area the ad targets.” In response, party officials of AfD considered Google’s stance as an intentional boycott with political motivations against their populist platform and threatened to take back their investments in Google and prioritize Facebook as its main campaign platform.
Whether other social media companies will comply with AfD’s agenda and the scale of the impact AfD’s increased presence on the internet will have in future elections remains unknown.