Google has banned political ads in Singapore ahead of elections, an opposition party has said, sparking accusations the tech giant was “kowtowing” to the tightly-controlled city’s government.

The ban was imposed under controversial new rules aimed at fighting misinformation in the city-state, which critics fear could be used to stifle dissent.

General elections are widely expected within months and weak opposition parties are relying on social media to reach voters in a country where the mainstream media typically backs the long-ruling government,but a Singapore Democratic Party, a key opposition group, said that Google had refused their request to buy ads on the site.

In email correspondence between the Singapore Democratic Party and a senior Google public policy official, the tech firm said it “will not accept advertising regulated by the Code of Practice for Transparency of Online Political Advertisements”.

In the correspondence shared with media in a statement by SDP, Google’s Vice President, Government Affairs and Public Policy, APAC, Ted Osius, said:

“This was not an easy decision to make as Google is committed to delivering useful and relevant election-related information to users around the world.”

Google banned political advertising on its platform before Canada’s federal election earlier this year, after the country introduced stringent transparency rules.

Google also said last month it would stop giving advertisers data such as public voter records and general political affiliations to target their ads. The move coincides with pressure on social media platforms over their handling of political ads ahead of the U.S. presidential election in 2020.

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