Mar 3, 2021 - Economy

Facebook to lift political ad ban imposed after November election

Photo Illustration by Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook will finally allow advertisers to resume running political and social issue ads in the U.S. on Thursday, according to a company update.

The big picture: Facebook and rival Google instituted political ad bans to slow the spread of misinformation and curb confusion around the presidential election and its aftermath.

Catch up quick: Google and Facebook both implemented political ad bans following poll closures on Nov. 3.

Details: Facebook said that it put the temporary political ad ban in place after the November 2020 election to avoid confusion or abuse following Election Day. It admitted that its ban needed to include issue ads to be effective.

  • Facebook said that it's hoping to spend some time refining the process to avoid any future confusion or concerns.
  • "Unlike other platforms, we require authorization and transparency not just for political and electoral ads, but also for social issue ads, and our systems do not distinguish between these categories," the company said in a blog post.
  • "We’ve heard a lot of feedback about this and learned more about political and electoral ads during this election cycle. As a result, we plan to use the coming months to take a closer look at how these ads work on our service to see where further changes may be merited."

Between the lines: Some candidates and campaign officials expressed frustration with the ad bans, arguing that the bans limit transparency of digital political advertising broadly.

  • Ad buyers expressed initial frustration with the lack of clarity around how ad bans would be implemented and when they would expire.

The big picture: Google and Facebook are the two biggest digital platforms for political ads. Their bans over the past few months have meant that more advertisers have shifted dollars to other digital platforms, like smart TVs, that don't offer the same level of transparency.

What's next: Facebook says advertisers who have completed the ad authorization process may submit new ads that require a “Paid for by” disclaimer or edit existing, eligible ads to turn them back on.

  • "We will begin this process starting in the morning (Pacific Time) -- this may take a few hours to complete," the company says.
  • It does warn that existing ads won’t automatically turn back on. "Existing ads will continue to show a delivery error message," the company notes. "Advertisers should submit new ads or edit existing eligible ads (i.e. those that have an end date in the future)."

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