Facebook is considering a ban on political ads before U.S. election

Facebook is considering banning all political ads in the build-up to the presidential election after their hands-off approach and lack of fact-checking sparked fury among lawmakers and civil rights groups

  • Facebook is thinking about a blackout on political ads in the days before the U.S. election in November  
  • It comes after weeks of criticism for not fact-checking ads from politicians or their campaigns 
  • Competitor Twitter has fact-checked articles and banned misleading ads
  • On Wednesday, an audit found that the social media giant has made decisions that undermined civil rights
  • The criticism has led to a Facebook advertising boycott involving more than 1,000 companies 
  • In 2016, it was found that Russian operatives used Facebook to spread misleading and divisive ads and posts in the lead up to the election 

Facebook is considering a blackout on political ads on its site in the days leading up the U.S. election in November, it was reported Friday. 

According to Bloomberg, the social media giant is discussing a ban on political ads after weeks of criticism for not fact-checking ads from politicians or their campaigns.

Anger over the company’s inactive stand on hate speech on its platform has resulted in a boycott from more than a thousand of its advertisers. 

Civil rights groups have also called Facebook’s response ‘disappointing’.  

Facebook may introduce a ban on political ads in the days before the 2020 election

The political ad blackout is still only being discussed and no action has been finalized, Bloomberg adds. 

Blackouts on political advertising within days of an election are common in other parts of the world such as the United Kingdom. 

The ban is seen as important to those who believe it stops the spread of misinformation around the election just as people are preparing to vote. 

There are concerns, however, that a ban on all election-related posts could effect the numbers who turn out by also hurting ‘get out and vote’ campaigns. 

Candidates will also be prevented from advertising their stance on any breaking news that happens within those few days. 

It was found that Russian operatives used Facebook to spread misleading and divisive ads and posts in the lead up to the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. 

The company has since attempted to tighten up its political ad process. It implemented stricter requirements on buying marketing spots and added a searchable ad archive. 

The news of the potentials blackout comes after Facebook flounders to come back from criticism about its hate speech stand and an audit report released Wednesday found that it does not do enough to implement its own voter suppression policies. 

The audit found this to be especially true with posts from President Donald Trump that Facebook has allowed to stay on the site despite its competitors Twitter and Snapchat choosing the fact-check them.  

It said the company made a series of decisions that undermined civil rights, including allowing posts from Trump that violate the values of the leading social network.

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has previously said that as a private company, he doesn’t believe Facebook should intervene in what is posted on the site, even in hate speech

The audit commissioned by Facebook in 2018 found the California social media giant had taken ‘important steps forward in building a long-term civil rights accountability structure’ but they ‘are not sufficient and should not be the end of Facebook’s progress’.

Despite progress, ‘the auditors are concerned that those gains could be obscured by the vexing and heartbreaking decisions Facebook has made that represent significant setbacks for civil rights,’ the 100-page report said.

The auditors also expressed particular alarm at Facebook’s reluctance to take action on posts from Trump this year which ‘allowed the propagation of hate/violent speech’ and ‘facilitated voter suppression’.

The posts, on May 20, were about mail-in ballots. Trump had said they were ‘fraudulent’ or would amount to ‘voter fraud’, which the auditors say was harmful false information that Facebook should have removed.

These are among the posts the auditors said were harmful. Trump posted them on May 20 

Anger about the posts and Facebook’s inaction has now led to a boycott on advertising involving more than 1,000 companies.   

They are pressing for more aggressive action from Facebook on toxic and inflammatory content which promotes violence and hate – spurred by the wave of protests calling for social justice and racial equity. 

Money from the eight million advertisers who spend money with Facebook accounts for 98 percent of its annual $70.7billion revenue, according to the New York Times. 

Facebook has steadfastly refused to fact-check political speech and has a largely hands-off policy on comments from world leaders.

But it has said it will take down comments that could lead to imminent harm, and recently updated a policy to label a post which violates its rules, even if it is allowed to remain online for being ‘newsworthy’.

This decision was an about turn from founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg after he said that as a private company Facebook should not intervene in what is posted on the site. 

Despite the ongoing boycott, Facebook’s stock continues to rise this week

It came as executives began to use a more conciliatory tone toward the demands as more and more large advertisers joined the boycott.  

Yet on Tuesday organizers of the Facebook boycott campaign slammed Zuckerberg for doing ‘just about nothing’ to remove hate speech from the site.

Leaders of the #StopHateForProfit campaign lashed out after a ‘disappointing’ meeting with the social media CEO and other top brass which they said showed Facebook ‘is not yet ready to address the vitriolic hate on their platform’.

Despite the ongoing boycott, Facebook stock has continued to rise in the past week having already reached record highs. 

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