Google restricts political ads and AI answers on South Korean elections

By Dain Oh, The Readable
Apr. 1, 2024 9:00PM GMT+9

Google has temporarily ceased the provision of political advertisements in South Korea in anticipation of the national assembly elections next week. Moreover, South Korean users will be unable to receive answers to election-related questions from the company’s artificial intelligence chatbot, Gemini.

In a statement on the company’s blog dated March 25, Google’s Korea team announced, “To comply with local regulations, we do not support political advertisements during the election period.” While the search giant did not specify the regulation it was adhering to, its decision appears to be influenced by the Public Official Election Act. According to this law, South Korea prohibits the use of unspecified methods for running advertisements, including broadcasters, newspapers, communications, magazines, or other periodicals for election campaigning.

Furthermore, the company has imposed restrictions on using Gemini for election-related queries in the South Korean market. “Google takes its responsibility seriously to provide high-quality information regarding elections and continuously strives to enhance related features,” wrote Google’s Korea team in the same blog post.

For instance, when inquired about “which party will win the upcoming election in South Korea?,” Gemini responds, “I am still learning how to answer this question. In the meantime, please try Google search.” This cautious approach by the generative AI extends even to relatively neutral queries like “when is election day in South Korea?” where it recommends users to conduct their own search rather than providing an answer directly.

The policy was first unveiled in December by Susan Jasper, VP of Trust & Safety Solutions at Google. “In preparation for the 2024 elections and guided by an abundance of caution on this critical topic, we will limit the types of election-related queries that Bard and SGE can respond to,” the company’s representative announced. Both Bard and SGE are references to Google’s ventures in generative AI, with Bard being the former name for Gemini and SGE standing for ‘search generative experience.’

In a development separate from Google’s announcements, South Korea revised its election law at the end of last year, introducing restrictions on election campaigns that employ deepfake videos. Since earlier this year, the National Election Commission has established a special task force dedicated to combating fake news, with a focus on monitoring synthetic content generated by AI that may pose threats to democracies.

The national assembly elections of South Korea will take place on April 10.

The cover image of this article was designed by Areum Hwang. This article was copyedited by Arthur Gregory Willers.

Dain Oh is a distinguished journalist based in South Korea, recognized for her exceptional contributions to the field. As the founder and editor-in-chief of The Readable, she has demonstrated her expertise in leading media outlets to success. Prior to establishing The Readable, Dain was a journalist for The Electronic Times, a prestigious IT newspaper in Korea. During her tenure, she extensively covered the cybersecurity industry, delivering groundbreaking reports. Her work included exclusive stories, such as the revelation of incident response information sharing by the National Intelligence Service. These accomplishments led to her receiving the Journalist of the Year Award in 2021 by the Korea Institute of Information Security and Cryptology, a well-deserved accolade bestowed upon her through a unanimous decision. Dain has been invited to speak at several global conferences, including the APEC Women in STEM Principles and Actions, which was funded by the U.S. State Department. Additionally, she is an active member of the Asian American Journalists Association, further exhibiting her commitment to journalism.