Exclusive:Google ads: Tech giant under fire for taking advertising money from far-right group Britain First

Paul Golding has spent hundreds of pounds advertising Britain First on Google. Image: NationalWorldPaul Golding has spent hundreds of pounds advertising Britain First on Google. Image: NationalWorld
Paul Golding has spent hundreds of pounds advertising Britain First on Google. Image: NationalWorld | NationalWorld
Google has been criticised by campaigners for allowing the far-right political party Britain First to advertise on its platform.

Google is accepting money to advertise the far-right political party Britain First, NationalWorld can exclusively reveal.

Tech campaigners have criticised the search engine for profiting from the organisation, describing it as “morally outrageous” and accusing it of “selling out to extremists”.

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Google was paid between £450 and £500 to advertise Britain First on its platform, according to figures published on the Google Ads Transparency Center. The payments were listed under the name of Paul Golding, the controversial leader of the party. 

Despite the small amount of revenue generated, the sponsored ad for Britain First has been shown to Google users in the UK between 7,000 and 8,000 times. Advertisers can target Google users based on criteria like age, location and gender but the Britain First ad does not reveal who has been targeted. 

The ad (below) describes Britain First as “the UK’s only patriotic political party”. It has four links – one to view videos, another to view campaigns and a third to join the party. The fourth link is described as “Britain First and Racism”. In the racism statement section it claims Britain First “rejects racial hatred in all its forms”.

The Britain First ad currently running on Google ads. Image: Google Ads Transparency Center/Britain First The Britain First ad currently running on Google ads. Image: Google Ads Transparency Center/Britain First
The Britain First ad currently running on Google ads. Image: Google Ads Transparency Center/Britain First | Google Ads Transparency Center/Britain First

The ad was first shown on 22 June 2023 and at the time of writing had run for 33 days, last being shown to users yesterday (23 July). According to the Transparency Center, Mr Golding only has one live ad on the site. 

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Britain First and its leader have been marred by controversy since the party’s inception in 2011. Mr Golding is a highly controversial political figure and was jailed in 2018 after being found guilty of religiously aggravated harassment. He was later convicted of an offence under the Terrorism Act in 2020 after refusing to give police access to his mobile phone when returning from a political trip to Russia. He was given a conditional discharge for nine months and ordered to pay a £21 surcharge and £750 in costs. 

Britain First was deregistered as a political party in 2017 but was reregistered after its application was approved by the Electoral Commission in 2021

The Center for Countering Digital Hate, which campaigns to stop big tech from allowing the spread of online hate and disinformation, said Google should decline to do business with extremists, “like any decent company”. Google did not say if it would stop accepting money from Mr Golding and Britain First but said all advertisers must comply with its policies.

‘Contaminates our public discourse’

Imran Ahmed, chief executive of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, said: “When people say ‘Google it,’ they don’t mean ‘go find paid propaganda filled with lies, racism, hate and xenophobia’. For Google to build up such worldwide trust for their search results and then sell out to extremist groups like Britain First is morally outrageous.

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“Extremists try to grab people’s attention and win support for their cause with sly lies that underpin their bigotry. It whips up hatred of marginalised groups and contaminates our public discourse. Google should - like any decent company - decline to do business with racists.”

Google has policies regarding what can and cannot run as a political ad but there is nothing to prevent Britain First from advertising its webpage on the platform as a political party. 

A spokesperson for Google said: “All advertisers must comply with our policies. We include advertisements that run on our platforms in our Ads Transparency Center so people can learn more about the ads they see.”

Mr Golding was contacted twice for comment but did not respond to NationalWorld’s request.

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Other Google advertising controversies

It is not the only occasion Google has come under fire for taking money from controversial figures and organisations.

The highly polarising gun rights advocacy group had spent almost $7 million on more than 5,000 Google ads since 2018. The ads were shown to Google users in America hundreds of millions of times, with some being shown around 10 million times each.

Google has ad policies in place restricting dangerous products and services, like guns, but because the NRA ads are about legislation they are allowed. 

Dr Iain Overton of charity Action on Armed Violence told NationalWorld at the time that the search giant needs to “prioritise public safety over profits”.

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