Google Moves to Ban Bail-Bond Ads; Teams with Koch Brothers on Bail Reform

Google Moves to Ban Bail-Bond Ads; Teams with Koch Brothers on Bail Reform

Google said that ads for for-profit bond providers would be off its sites by July.

Groups supporting bail system reform hope Google's announcement to ban bail bond ads encourages other corporations to “end the incentives that fuel mass incarceration.”

Google is banning ads for bail bonds on all its platforms, the search engine giant announced Monday.

Citing a 2016 study showing that the industry places “a significant burden on many poor families” and noting that the bail system disproportionately affects people of color, the company said its aim was to protect its users from “deceptive or harmful products.” The advertising ban takes effect July 2018.

The study also noted that the for-profit money bail system “is not proven to decrease the incidence of defendants fleeing before trial,” which is exactly what the system is set up to do. An earlier 2013 study in Colorado found that defendants released with no-cost bail were just as likely to return to court. Washington, D.C., avoids bail for almost all its cases, and while the system has experienced a few “high-profile lapses,” as the Washington Post put it, nine in ten defendants were not arrested again, and of those that were, most were not violent crimes.

Google did not address how well bail bonds functioned (or did not function) in its statement, but did say that “the issue of bail bond reform has drawn support from a wide range of groups and organizations, including the Essie Justice Group, Koch Industries, Color of Change and many civil and human rights organizations who have worked on the reform of our criminal justice system for many years.”

Yes, that Koch Industries. Google also announced Tuesday that it was partnering with the Koch brothers to push for changes to the bail system, CNBC reported. Mark Holden, general counsel and senior vice president of Koch Industries, confirmed to CNBC that “our desired state is that after people are arrested, there should be a risk assessment done, a determination if they are a risk to public safety,” and then a decision on whether they should have to pay bail and how much it should be.

More states and municipalities have taken up the bail reform issue of late. New Jersey has already reformed its bail system, as has Alaska and the city of Philadelphia, among others.

Google did not say how many ads would be affected by the ban. It’s not the first time the tech giant has taken aim at a specific category of ads, Ars Technica reports. In 2016, it banned ads from payday loan companies.

In a statement, Rashad Robinson, Executive Director of Color Of Change, said: “Google’s announcement that it will no longer accept advertising dollars from bail bonds companies is a necessary change and important step toward isolating the for-profit bail bonds industry. At a time when corporations are finally being held accountable for their roles in enabling mass incarceration, it is encouraging to see a company as powerful as Google cutting ties with businesses that profit from incarcerating poor Black and brown people. Google’s announcement comes after months of advocacy by our organizations. We hope this decision encourages other corporations to take proactive steps to sever ties with the for-profit bail industry and end the incentives that fuel mass incarceration.”

Color of Change, Essie Justice Group, the Movement for Black Lives and a number of other organizations are co-sponsoring “Black Mama’s Bail Out,” a Mother’s Day initiative to pay bail for as many incarcerated black mothers as possible.

Rachel Kaufman is Next City's senior editor, responsible for our daily journalism. She was a longtime Next City freelance writer and editor before coming on staff full-time. She has covered transportation, sustainability, science and tech. Her writing has appeared in Inc., National Geographic News, Scientific American and other outlets.

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