SAN FRANCISCO – Facebook said on Wednesday it planned to lift its ban on online political advertising, resuming a form of digital promotion that has been criticized for spreading false information and false and incite voters.
The social network said it will allow advertisers to buy new ads on “social, election or political issues” starting Thursday, according to the copy of an email sent to advertisers. political and viewed by The New York Times. The company says these advertisers must complete a series of identity checks before they can be allowed to place ads.
“We introduced this temporary ban after the November 2020 election to avoid confusion or abuse after Election Day,” Facebook said in a blog post. “We heard a lot of feedback on this and learned more about political and election advertising during this election cycle. As such, we plan to use the coming months to take a closer look at how these ads perform on our service to see where the next changes can benefit. “
Political advertising on Facebook has long been faced with questions. Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive officer of Facebook, has said that he wants to maintain a predominant stance towards the speech on the site – including political advertising – unless it causes immediate harm. public or private, said he “didn’t want to be the referee of the truth. “
But after the 2016 presidential election, the company and intelligence officials discovered that Russians used Facebook ads to sow discontent among Americans. Former President Donald J. Trump also used Facebook political ads to amplify claims of an “invasion” on the Mexican border in 2019, among other incidents.
Facebook banned political ads late last year as a way to prevent misinformation and violent threats surrounding November’s presidential election. In September, the company said it had plans to ban new political ads for the week leading up to Election Day and will be quick to act against posts trying to discourage people from voting. Then in October, Facebook extended that action by announcing it would ban all issue and political-based advertising after the polls ended November 3 for a period of time. determined.
Ultimately, the company took control of groups and pages that spread some sort of misinformation, such as discouraging people from voting or registering to vote. It has spent billions of dollars to root out foreign influencing campaigns and other types of interventions from malicious state agencies and other bad actors.
In December, Facebook lifted its ban allowing certain advertisers to run political ads and run in Georgia for the January Senate elections in the state. But the ban remains in effect for the remaining 49 states.
The attitudes around how political advertising should be treated on Facebook are quite contradictory. Regularly unpopular politicians can raise their profiles and awareness of their campaigns by using Facebook.
“Political advertising is not a bad thing,” said Siva Vaidhyanathan, professor of media studies and author of Facebook’s book research on the impact of Facebook on democracy. “They perform an essential service, in action that directly represents a candidate’s concerns or position.”
He added, “When you ban all campaign ads on the most accessible and affordable platform available, you’ll tilt the balance in favor of those who can afford to pay for radio. and television. “
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat of New York, has also said that Facebook political advertising could be a key ingredient for Democrats’ digital campaign strategies.
Some political ad buyers welcomed the lifting of the advertising ban.
“The ad ban is something Facebook has done to appease the public about misinformation spreading on the platform,” said Eileen Pollet, digital campaign strategist and founder of Ravenna Strategies. “But it really hurt good actors while bad actors were completely free of control. And now, especially since the election ended, the ban has really hurt nonprofits and local organizations. “
Facebook has long sought to navigate between strong censorship of its policies and a softer act. For years, Zuckerberg has defended politicians’ right to say what they want on Facebook, but that changed last year amid warnings of potential violence surrounding the November election. increase.
In January, Facebook banned Mr. Trump from using his account and post on the platform after he put it on social media to authorize election results and incite a violent uprising among supporters. for you, who broke into the US Capitol.
Facebook said Mr. Trump’s suspension was “indefinite.” The decision is currently under review by the Facebook Supervisory Board, a third-party organization created by the company and comprised of journalists, academics, and others who adjudicate some difficult content policy enforcement decisions. corporate towels. A decision is expected to be made within the next few months.
On Thursday, Facebook political advertisers will be able to submit new ads or pop on existing approved political ads, the company said. Each ad will appear with a small disclaimer, saying it has been “paid for” by a political organization. For new ad buyers, Facebook says it can take up to a week to clear the identity authorization process and review ads.