SAN FRANCISCO – Facebook said on Wednesday that it planned to lift the ban on political advertising on its network, resuming a form of digital propaganda that has been criticized for misinformation, lies and inciting voters.
The social network said it would allow advertisers to buy new ads about “social issues, elections or politics”, a copy of an email sent to political advertisers on Thursday and seen by the New York Times. Those advertisers must complete a series of identities before they are authorized to place advertisements, the company said.
“We imposed this temporary ban after the November 2020 election to avoid confusion or misuse on Election Day,” Facebook said in a statement. blog post. “We have heard a lot of feedback about this and have learned more about political and electoral advertisements during this election cycle. As a result, we plan to use the coming months to see how these ads work in our service, to see how further changes can be merged. “
Political advertisements on Facebook have been facing questions for a long time. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said that he wants to keep a considerable hand on speech on the site – including political advertising – as long as it does not cause immediate harm to the public or individuals. To say that he “does not want to be” a mediator of truth. “
But after the 2016 presidential election, company and intelligence officials discovered it Russians used Facebook ads Sowing discontent among Americans. Former President Donald J. Trump Facebook also used political advertisements Raising claims about an “invasion” of the Mexican border in 2019, among other incidents.
Facebook banned political ads in November last year to combat misinformation and threats of violence. In September, the company said It planned to stop new political advertisements Will act swiftly for the week before Election Day and against posts that tried to drive people away from voting. Then in October, Facebook Expanded that action By announcing that all political and issue-based advertising will be banned after the vote closes on November 3 for an undetermined length.
The company eventually shut down on groups and pages that spread some type of misinformation, such as preventing people from voting or registering to vote. It has spent billions of dollars to divert foreign influence campaigns and other forms of attention from malicious state agencies and other bad actors.
In December, Facebook Ban lifted To allow some advertisers Run political issues and candidacy ads in Georgia For the January by-election in the state. But the ban otherwise remained in effect for the remaining 49 states.
Attitudes are certainly mixed about how political advertising should be perceived on Facebook. Politicians who are not well known can use Facebook to raise their profile and awareness of their campaigns.
“Statutory advertisements are not bad things in and of themselves,” said Shiva Vaidyanathan, a media studies professor and author A book that studies the effects of facebook On democracy. “They perform an essential service, directly in the act of representing the candidate’s concerns or positions.”
“When you ban all campaign ads on the most accessible and affordable platforms, you increase your inclination towards candidates who can afford radio and television,” he said.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat in New York, also said that there may be political advertising on Facebook An important component For Democratic digital campaign strategies.
Some political advertising buyers praised the lifting of the ban on advertisements.
“The advertising ban was something that Facebook did to please the public for the misinformation spread on the platform,” said Eileen Pollett, a digital campaign strategist and founder of Ravenna Strategies. “But it is really hurting good actors while bad actors had total free rein. And now, especially since the election ended, the ban was actually hurting non-profit organizations and local organizations. “
Facebook has long threaded the needle between its policies and the overwhelming restraint of a light touch. For years, Mr. Zuckerberg defended the politicians’ right to say what they wanted on Facebook, but that changed amid growing alarm over possible violence during the November election last year.
In January, Facebook banned Mr. Trump From using his account and posting on the platform after he went on social media to delegation of election results provoked violent rebellion among his supporters, which shook the US Capitol.
Facebook said Mr Trump’s suspension was “indefinite”. The decision is now made by the Facebook Oversight Board, a third-party entity created by the company, and by journalists, academics and others who consider some of the company’s thorny content policy enforcement decisions. The decision is expected to come in the next few months.
The company said that on Thursday, political advertisers on Facebook will be helped in placing new advertisements or commissioning existing political advertisements. Each advertisement will appear with a small disclaimer stating that it is “paid” by a political organization. For those purchasing new ads, Facebook said it could take up to a week to clear the identification authority and the ad review process.