Facebook mulls ban on political advertising ahead of November elections

Platform News: Facebook on a smartphone

Stung by recent feedback and boycott campaigns by activists, Facebook is considering imposing a ban on political ads on its social network in the days leading up to the November elections in the US, Bloomberg News has reported, citing people familiar with the company’s thinking.

KEY POINTS:

  • More than 900 advertisers have signed on to an ad boycott on Facebook
  • Facebook is considering imposing a ban on political ads on its social network in the days leading up to the November Presidential election
  • Many in Silicon Valley are desperate to both avoid commercial boycotts and to hinder the Trump re-election campaign, which gained traction on Facebook

The potential ban is only being discussed and has not been finalised, the report added.

A Facebook spokesman said the company had no comment on the report.

The social media company has been under fire for its policy of exempting politicians’ ads and speech from fact-checking. Last year, smaller rival Twitter banned political ads, but Facebook has maintained that it does not want to stifle political speech.

GOP President Donald J Trump’s campaign and the campaign of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Last month Biden’s campaign published an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg calling for the company to fact-check politicians’ ads in the two weeks ahead of the election.

In a Twitter post on Friday, Biden’s digital director Rob Flaherty pointed to the issue of misinformation in unpaid content on the site.

“Requisite reminder that Facebook’s problems are 80% about unpaid content and so anything they do about paid content is an attempt to distract you,” he tweeted.

Facebook has drawn heat from employees and lawmakers in recent weeks over its decisions not to act on inflammatory posts by the president.

More than 900 advertisers have signed on to an ad boycott on Facebook, organised by civil rights groups to pressure the world’s largest social media network to take concrete steps to block hate speech and misinformation, in the wake of the death of George Floyd in police custody.

Initial reporting via our content partners at Thomson Reuters. Reporting by Neha Malara and Elizabeth Culliford; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi, Dan Grebler and Daniel Wallis.

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