Facebook extends ban on political ads in the US for another month

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As election misinformation raged online, Facebook has said its post-election ban on political advertisements would probably last another month, increasing concerns from campaigns and groups eager to reach voters for crucial Georgia Senate races in January.

The ban, among Facebook’s measures to combat misinformation and other abuses on its own site, was supposed to last about a week but could be extended. Alphabet Inc’s Google also appeared to be sticking with its post-election political ad ban.

“While multiple sources have projected a presidential winner, we still believe it’s important to help prevent confusion or abuse on our platform,” Facebook told advertisers within an email seen by journalists. It said to expect the pause to continue another month however there “may be an opportunity to resume these ads sooner.”

Facebook later confirmed the expansion in a blog article.

Baseless claims about the election reverberated about social media this week since President Trump challenged the validity of this result, even as state officials reported no substantial flaws and legal specialists cautioned he had little opportunity to overturn Democratic leader Biden’s victory.

In a single Facebook group created on Sunday, which rapidly grew to almost 400,000 members by Wednesday, members calling for a nationwide recount swapped unfounded accusations about alleged election fraud and shifting state vote counts each few seconds.

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Google declined to answer questions regarding the period of its advertising pause, even though one advertiser said the firm had floated the prospect of extending it via or following December. A Google spokeswoman previously said the business would raise its ban based on factors such as the time required for votes to be counted and whether there was civil unrest.

The extensions mean that the top two digital advertising behemoths, which together control more than half of the market, aren’t accepting election ads before the two US Senate runoff races in Georgia that could decide control of that chamber.

Democratic and Republican electronic strategists who spoke to journalists at our partner news agency Reuters railed against these decisions, stating the ad bans were excessively broad and neglected to combat a much larger issue on the platforms: the natural spread of viral lies in outstanding posts.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Together with the Senate attempts of Georgia Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, called for an exemption for the Georgia Senate run-offs so they could make voters aware of upcoming deadlines.

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“It is driving us absolutely bonkers,” explained Mark Jablonowski, managing partner of DSPolitical, a digital firm that operates with Democratic causes.

“They’re essentially holding the rest of the political process hostage,” said Eric Wilson, a Republican digital strategist, who said he believed the companies’ concerns about ads on the election outcome did not require a blanket ban. “This is something which deserves a scalpel and they’re utilizing a rusty ax,” he added.

The companies declined to say when they would lift other “break-glass” election measures introduced for unpaid posts, like Facebook’s limits on the distribution of live videos and demotions of content that its systems predict may be misinformation.

Google’s YouTube, which is labelling all election-related videos with information about the outcome, said it would stick with that approach “so long as it’s necessary.”

The video-sharing company bans “demonstrably false” claims about the election process, but has used the tool sparingly, saying hyperbolic statements about a political party “stealing” the election does not violate the policy.

However, Twitter has stopped using its most restrictive election-related warning labels, which hid and limited engagement on violating tweets. Instead, the company is now using lighter-touch labels that “provide additional context,” spokeswoman Katie Rosborough said.

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Twitter placed a label reading “this claim about election fraud has been disputed” on two of Trump’s tweets Tuesday morning, but each was retweeted more than 80,000 times by that evening.

Democratic strategists, including members of the Biden campaign who tweeted criticism of Facebook, said social media companies’ steps were not effectively controlling the spread of viral lies.

Nina Jankowicz, a disinformation fellow at the Wilson Center, said that the ad orbits were needed but not enough for handling false details.

“Clearly President Trump does not think the election is over, so I don’t think the platforms should treat it as if it is,” she explained.

The team at Platform Executive hope you have enjoyed this news article. Initial reporting via our official content partners at Thomson Reuters. Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford, Katie Paul, Raphael Satter and Ayanti Bera. Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Bernadette Baum and Richard Chang.

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