Google can charge political candidates 'substantially' different ad rates

Political candidates hoping to buy ads on search giant Google could be charged meaningfully different rates, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said during testimony on Capitol Hill Tuesday.

While he maintained that the rates wouldn’t differ based on “political reasons,” Pichai conceded that candidates could potentially face “substantially” different prices on its system – an auction process that operates by a “supply and demand” equilibrium.

Things that work in determining those rates, according to Pichai, include the time of day, the keywords a candidate is choosing and the geographies where those ads are targeted.

Google’s method is opposed to advertising in other areas, like television, where it is generally required that candidates are charged the lowest unit rate for advertising and given equal broadcast time if requested.

Pichai was also questioned about perceived biases related to Google’s search algorithm, which have been highlighted by Republicans in congress and President Trump. The tech mogul attempted to assure lawmakers that the system operated on no inherent bias, and that no employee – or group of employees—was capable of influencing results.

“I’m confident we don’t approach our work with any political bias,” he said.