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Facebook Bans New Political Ads

Facebook banned new political ads for the week leading up to the November 3 U.S. elections.

The policy, which was originally announced in early September, means that the company stopped accepting new ad buys in the week leading up to the U.S. presidential election, becoming effective 27 October. Ads that were run prior to Tuesday can continue to run through Election Day.

Election integrity has become a growing concern for social media and technology businesses, especially after the 2016 elections and evidence of foreign interference through political advertising, as well as disinformation from various sources in the form of inflated conspiracy theories, disruptive posts, and other lies about candidates.

After the first day of the ban, however, Facebook encountered some setbacks.

Political advertisers from both sides complained about the policy’s implantation, alleging that in some instances ads were improperly blocked or that others’ content was misleading.

The campaign for Democratic candidate former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said that a number of its ads were affected. A spokesperson criticized Facebook's policy, describing it as a “silly, performative pre-election hoop-jumping exercise,” according to Reuters.

Other issues Facebook is having include ads from U.S. President Donald Trump;s re-election campaign that encourage viewers to “vote today” as a way to work around Facebook’s rules. Facebook said it would remove these ads since the messaging lacked additional context or clarity.

The Trump campaign told USA Today that the decision to ban its “vote today” ads was part of an attempt by “the Silicon Valley Mafia” to tip the scales in favor of Biden.

Another ad, apparently in anticipation of Trump’s victory, carried the caption, “President Trump is STILL your President,” and features Trump’s head photoshopped onto the body of a hummingbird, as well as his face imposed on a rising sun in the background. A voiceover says, “It’s morning in America. Donald J. Trump is still president of the United States.” Although Facebook's policies ban ads that prematurely claim an election victory, Facebook said that this ad, and other ads stating “Trump is still” president, would remain since even if he loses his reelection bid, he would continue in his role as president until 20 January.

Another Facebook policy will remove political ads after the polls close on 3 November, even ones launched prior to 27 October, to decrease the chance for creating confusion or disinformation of election results. According to The Hill, the hold on such ads is expected to last for about one week, contingent upon how the results are handled.

Other social media outlets are also addressing the potential for misinformation, disinformation, or other abuses through advertising or posts.

Twitter, which has banned all political advertising, announced it would start “preemptively debunking common election misinformation,” The Hill reported on 26 October.