Facebook Will Let Users Turn Off Political Ads

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Rachel Sandler   Forbes U.S. Staff

Facebook Ads

Photo: Will Francis/Unsplash

As the U.S. prepares for the 2020 election, Facebook announced Tuesday that users will be able to block seeing all political ads—months after the company drew criticism for allowing politicians to lie in them.

KEY FACTS

- Facebook and Instagram users will be able to turn off all social issue, electoral or political ads from candidates, Super PACs or other “organizations that have the ‘Paid for by’ political disclaimer on them.”

- Facebook hopes to roll out the new feature to all U.S. users over the next few weeks and will aim to make it available in other countries where it monitors elections in the fall.

- The company’s ad policy has been under fire from Democrats, namely the Biden campaign, since last year when Facebook doubled down on allowing politicians by lying in ads without being fact checked.

- Allowing users the option of turning off political ads differs from Twitter’s approach, which bans political ads altogether from the platform.    

- It’s unclear how the campaigns will adjust to the announcement, since both spend millions on Facebook and Instagram to reach voters. Neither the Trump nor the Biden campaign immediately responded to requests for comment from Forbes.

CRUCIAL QUOTE

“And for those of you who've already made up your minds and just want the election to be over, we hear you—so we're also introducing the ability to turn off seeing political ads. We'll still remind you to vote,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a USA Today op-ed announcing the change.

KEY BACKGROUND

Facebook ads were a cornerstone of Trump’s campaign strategy in 2016, but the company has since faced intense scrutiny for doing too little to tamp down on misinformation. Zuckerberg has repeatedly used a hands-off approach to political speech, saying that private tech companies shouldn’t be decided what’s true or false. While spending money on Facebook ads, Biden’s campaign has made an issue of “fixing” Facebook and last week called on Facebook to fact-check all political ads before they are permitted to run—which Facebook has not done. 

BIG NUMBERS

$33.7 million, that’s how much money the Trump campaign has spent on Facebook ads since January. Biden’s campaign only spent $24.2 million, according to Facebook’s ad library.

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Rachel Sandler   Forbes U.S. Staff

I’m a San Francisco-based reporter covering breaking news at Forbes. I’ve previously reported for USA Today, Business Insider, The San Francisco Business Times and San Jose Inside. I studied journalism at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and was an editor at The Daily Orange, the university’s independent student newspaper.