Are you curious what all the fuss is about regarding Facebook’s political ad policy? If so, check out the latest episode of IN:60 with Jamie Turner. Or, scroll down to read about the issue in a nutshell.
This issue in a nutshell:
- Facebook has decided not to fact-check advertising from political candidates.
- The decision was made, in part, because Facebook (and Mark Zuckerberg) feel as though this would be a form of censorship.
- But this decision has opened up a can of worms. Essentially, this means that a political candidate can run Facebook ads that contain lies designed to mislead the public.
- Facebook is facing considerable backlash because of this policy. Whether they change the policy or not is up for debate.
- In an added twist, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey decided to ban all political advertising on his platform.
Official Facebook policy regarding political ads:
- “We don’t believe that it’s an appropriate role for us to referee political debates and prevent a politician’s speech from reaching its audience and being subject to public debate and scrutiny. That’s why Facebook exempts politicians from our third-party fact-checking program. We have had this policy on the books for over a year now, posted publicly on our site under our eligibility guidelines. This means that we will not send organic content or ads from politicians to our third-party fact-checking partners for review.”
Digging a little deeper:
- Facebook said that political ads will only represent 0.5% of its ad revenue, so this is not about money, they say, it’s about principle.)
- On Monday, 250 employees signed an open letter imploring the company to change its policy and implement some reforms before politicians weaponize the platform.
- “Free speech and paid speech are not the same thing,” the open letter said.
- “Allowing paid civic misinformation to run on the platform in its current state has the potential to increase distrust in our platform by allowing similar paid and organic content to sit side-by-side, some with third-party fact-checking and some without.”
- “Additionally, it communicates that we are okay profiting from deliberate misinformation campaigns by those in or seeking positions of power.” (Side note: Facebook said that political ads will only represent 0.5% of its ad revenue, so this is not about money, they say, it’s about principle.)
- Interestingly, Facebook’s policy only holds for political candidates. If a Political Action Committee runs an ad that contains a lie, that ad will be banned.
Probable outcome for Facebook:
- This is a PR nightmare for Facebook. No matter what they do now, they’ve stirred up a hornet’s nest.
- It’s possible, but unlikely, that Facebook will reverse course and follow Twitter’s lead by banning all political ads.
- It’s also possible that Facebook will keep the policy as it now stands, but this invites regulation from the Federal government which is not what Facebook wants.
- It’s most likely that Facebook will update their policies so that political ads are held to the same standards as other ads. This is the most logical and reasonable outcome, but there are no guarantees that Facebook will follow this course of action.
- From Sep. 25 to Oct. 1, the Trump campaign spent over $1.6 million on Facebook ads, many of which included false or misleading claims.
- Facebook took down one of these ads – which referred to Joe Biden as a ‘bitch’ — because it violated its ad policy against profanity.
- The Trump campaign then revised the ad to include a debunked claim about Biden, and this ad was allowed to stay up because Facebook ads from politicians are not eligible for third-party fact-checking.
- Elizabeth Warren and other Democratic officials have challenged Facebook’s misinformation policies, asserting that the social media platform is promoting Trump’s lies, and making money by doing so.
Quotes from Mark Zuckerberg:
- “Although I’ve considered whether we should not carry these ads in the past, and I’ll continue to do so … so far I’ve thought we should continue,”
- “In a democracy, I believe that people should be able to see for themselves what politicians that (people) may or may not vote for are saying and should judge their character for themselves.”
Quote from Ted Cruz:
- “Incumbent politicians have tons of money and a huge megaphone to spread their message,” Senator Ted Cruz argued recently. “If you ban political advertising from social media, how on earth is any upstart challenger supposed to beat an incumbent? If you think America would be better with more career politicians, in both parties, entrenched in power for life, then Twitter’s proposed ban is a good idea.”
Official Facebook ad policy (taken verbatim from Facebook.com):
- Ads about social issues, elections or politics that appear on Facebook or Instagram should include a disclaimer provided by advertisers that shows the name of the person or entity that paid for the ad.
- All US advertisers running ads about social issues, elections or politics are required to complete the ad authorization process before running ads to people in the US. However, it’s up to you, the advertiser, to comply with all applicable election and advertising laws and regulations. We hope that the ad authorization process will help candidates, political parties and other organizations provide people with more information about who’s behind the ads they’re seeing.
- At the top of each ad about social issues, elections or politics, there will be a disclaimer that specifies the individual or organization that paid for the ad.
- All ads are reviewed before they’re shown on Facebook through a combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and human review. We check an ad’s images, text and positioning as well as the content on an ad’s landing page against our Community Standards and Advertising Policies. In certain cases, an ad that’s already running can be flagged by AI or reported by our community. If this happens, the ad may be reviewed again, and if it’s found to be in violation of our policies, we’ll stop running it.