Jul 10, 2020 - Technology

Report: Facebook considering political ad blackout ahead of election

Photo: Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

Facebook is considering blocking candidates and causes from purchasing political ads in the U.S. ahead of the 2020 presidential election in November, Bloomberg reports.

Why it matters: The tech giant has been facing intense scrutiny for allowing politicians and advocacy groups to micro-target political ads on its platform, and for not fact-checking the ads. It has repeatedly defended its political ad policies, citing free speech. Banning ads leading up to the election would be a major reversal.

Facebook declined to comment.

By the numbers: Politicians and political groups are still spending big bucks on Facebook ads.

  • In roughly the last month (May 30-July 4), Joe Biden has spent $10.6 million on Facebook ads and Donald Trump has spent $14.5 million.
  • So far in 2020, presidential candidates have spent over $200 million on Facebook ads. That spend is expected to level off as the campaigns inch closer to the general election and start to invest in more persuasive TV ads.

The big picture: Some countries have implemented similar rules, banning political ads in the weeks leading up to elections. In France, paid ads are banned for the three months leading up to the election.

Our thought bubble: The aim of any blackout in the days leading up to the election would probably be to curb last-ditch efforts by bad actors to sow discord, or spread disinformation that could impact voter turnout.

  • Nevertheless, any ban would be certain to stir outrage from political campaigns. The Trump campaign pilloried Twitter for banning political ads last fall.
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