Google bans ads for bail bond services

Google and Facebook, the world’s most dominant online-advertising companies, will no longer take money from America’s for-profit bail bond agencies, siding with a growing national movement to eliminate cash bail from the criminal justice system. The ban will come into force in July.

In 2016 it banned ads from payday lenders, insinuating that predatory companies were taking advantage of financially at-risk individuals.

David Graff, Google’s senior director of global product policy, said in a statement on Monday that the company was persuaded by studies showing that bail bond agencies profited off poor and minority communities, where people who are arrested often must go into debt in order to post court-ordered bonds that guarantee their return for trial.

“We made this decision based on our commitment to protect our users from deceptive or harmful products, but the issue of bail bond reform has drawn support from a wide range of groups and organizations who have shared their work and perspectives with us,” Graff wrote in a blog post.

Bail is the amount of money that acts as insurance between the court and the defendant. A judge sets the amount, and the defendant typically will get a bail bond to help secure release. About 500,000 Americans are held in jail because they can’t post their set bail, according to law experts Jessica Pishko and Jessica Brand—and most of this number are incarcerated for low-level offenses.

Jeff Clayton, executive director of the American Bail Coalition, a trade association dismissed the announcements. The ad bans won’t affect bail bond agencies’ bottom lines much, Clayton said, because their websites will still come up under “organic” web searches. “They’ll just have to change their search optimizations to compete with competitors,” Clayton said.

However, Color of Change Executive Director Rashad Robinson said Monday’s announcements could mark the start of something much bigger. “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,” Robinson said in a statement.

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