Nov 7, 2019

Facebook, Google weigh changing political ad policies under pressure

Photos: Denis Charlet/AFP/ Daniel Reinhardt/picture alliance via Getty Images

Google and Facebook are both mulling changes to their political ad policies, sources tell Axios.

Driving the news: There’s no indication at this point that either company will stop running political ads. Rather, both are weighing policy changes that have been floated as compromise ideas, like limiting micro-targeting or disclosing more info about the advertiser.

Why it matters: Google and Facebook are by far the two biggest online advertising firms in the U.S., and already, presidential candidates alone have spent well over $50 million on both platforms so far this year.

  • Changes to the platforms' policies could impact that race, as well as hundreds of others at the state and local levels.
  • Hundreds of issue advertisers, like non-profits that advocate for climate change or gun reform, could also be impacted.

The big picture: Both companies are under enormous pressure from policymakers and industry leaders to address ways political ads can be manipulated on big automated platforms and to curtail the spread of lies and misinformation through paid advertising.

  • Last week, Twitter said that it would ban all political and issue ads on its platform this month, increasing the pressure on its rivals to match its efforts. Other platforms like Pinterest and LinkedIn have also banned political ads.

Between the lines: At this point, both companies are likely more worried about pressure coming from Democrats than from Republicans.

  • Republicans are traditionally hostile to government regulation of business and are less inclined to sign on to any effort to force the companies' hands.
  • Case in point: The Honest Ads Act, a 2017 Senate bill, has not received enough Republican support to move forward, even though the provisions it called for have mostly already been implemented by the tech firms themselves.
  • The recent controversy about falsehood in online ads was triggered by complaints about false statements in ads by President Trump's campaign attacking Democratic candidate Joe Biden.

Go deeper

The EU makes its move on a green coronavirus recovery

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The European Commission this morning proposed a $825 billion package of economic responses to the coronavirus pandemic that includes financing for renewable energy, electric vehicle charging and other emissions-friendly projects.

Why it matters: The energy components of the "Next Generation EU" plan, part of a wider multi-year budget proposal, appear to be the most substantial attempt yet to stitch low-carbon investments into economic recovery plans.

Zipline drones deliver masks to hospitals; vaccines could be next

Zipline's drone drops medical supplies via parachute. Image courtesy of Zipline.

Zipline, a California drone company, has made its U.S. debut by delivering medical supplies to hospitals in North Carolina under a pilot program honed in Africa.

Why it matters: The effort, made possible by a waiver from the Federal Aviation Administration to Novant Health, is the nation's longest-range drone delivery operation and could demonstrate how drones could be used in future pandemics, Zipline officials said.

NHL unveils 24-team playoff plan to return from coronavirus hiatus

Data: NHL; Table: Axios Visuals

The NHL unveiled its return-to-play plan on Tuesday, formally announcing that 24 of its 31 teams will return for a playoff tournament in two hub cities, if and when medically cleared.

Why it matters: Hockey is the first major North American sports league to sketch out its plans to return from a coronavirus-driven hiatus in such detail, and it's also the first one to officially pull the plug on its regular season, which will trigger ticket refunds.