Google: ARTICLE 19 objects against unfounded accusations of ‘unacceptable business practices’

Google: ARTICLE 19 objects against unfounded accusations of ‘unacceptable business practices’ - Digital

Update; Due to public pressure on Google, our account was reinstated on 5 April. Huge thanks to everyone who helped us to exert this pressure on Google. 


ARTICLE 19 is greatly dismayed by Google’s decision, taken in December 2023, to suspend our organisation’s ads account for alleged ‘unacceptable business practices’. All our attempts to obtain clarification from Google about the basis of this decision, appeal the decision and reinstate our account have been met with dead silence. We believe that Google’s lack of transparency and accountability in this matter represents a serious impediment to the ability to carry out our mission to protect the right to freedom of expression and information and reduces and limits awareness of our work and engagement. We call on Google to reverse the decision, restore our account, and abide by its own Terms and Conditions and community guidelines. 

In December 2023, ARTICLE 19 received an alert from Google, stating that our ads account, previously granted under Google’s not-for-profit ads programme, had contravened Google policy through ‘unacceptable business practices’. Subsequently, Google terminated our account. No explanation as for what kind of practices warranted this decision was provided. 

 During the last four months, ARTICLE 19 has been trying to obtain clarifications from Google about the basis for the decision and to get our account reinstated. All our requests have been ignored and more information from Google about the possibility for a formal appeal has been almost impossible to find.   

ARTICLE 19 also consulted experts on Google ads and asked them to review our ads to determine what may have happened.  We were told that there was nothing in our ads that would have flagged any suspension of the account. It is also possible that the account could have been terminated in error, due to Google laying off customer service roles in favour of more reliance on artificial intelligence. While we remain at a loss when it comes to any explanation of why our account has been suspended, we find the allegation of ‘unacceptable business practices’ to be totally unfounded.  

As one of the oldest and largest international freedom of expression organisation, we are disappointed with Google’s decision and the refusal to provide any explanation of its actions. Importantly, our Google ad account suspension has had a major impact on our work and effectiveness. Our analytics show that this suspension has significantly reduced awareness of our mission and engagement as visibility and traffic to our website have rapidly decreased. It has had an impact on our fundraising efforts and our ability to attract supporters. We have also suffered financial disadvantages as we are having to increase spending on advertising elsewhere.  

ARTICLE 19 also finds Google’s actions unacceptable in the light of our membership to the Global Network Initiative (GNI). As our fellow GNI member, Google committed to accountability and collaboration with civil society to advance freedom of expression. Google frequently invites ARTICLE 19 to stakeholders’ engagement meetings and initiatives, organised within Google’s corporate social responsibility strategy, to advise on the impact of Google policies and practices on users of their services. Moreover, ARTICLE 19 was one of several civil society organisations that help draft the Manila Principles of Intermediary Liability, first published in 2015. We have defended platforms’ immunity from liability, including Google, in front of the US Supreme Court, the European Court of Human Rights and in national courts, for example at the Supreme Court of Mexico most recently.  

 We believe that Google’s refusal to provide any explanation and response for its allegations of ARTICLE 19’s ‘unacceptable business practices’ makes a mockery of Google’s stated commitments to human rights and stakeholder engagement and cooperation. We also believe that the decision, the lack of transparency and accountability contravenes Google’s own Terms and Conditions and community standards.  

Despite Google’s attempts to present obstacles to our work, ARTICLE 19 will continue defending freedom of expression and media freedom worldwide. We ask our supporters and community to join our call to Google for more transparency, accountability and respect for human rights.

 If you want to support ARTICLE 19’s mission and work protecting the right to freedom of expression and information, please consider donating here. Rest assured we will continue advocating for accountability and transparency of Big Tech. We will not be spending our resources on Google ads.