Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Anyone who was waiting for Facebook to change its controversial political ad policies — particularly the one that allows politicians to lie with impunity — will have to keep waiting, the company made clear Thursday.

Driving the news: Facebook released a raft of small changes to its rules around political ads, including giving consumers the option to block political ads from their feeds.

Yes, but: It's leaving in place its "anything goes" policy toward the content of those ads, and it won't substantially limit campaigns' ability to narrowly target ads to specific audiences — which has been widely criticized as a way to selectively deliver misinformation unchecked.

Details: In a blog post on Thursday, Facebook director of product management Rob Leathern said that seeing fewer political and issue ads "is a common request we hear from people."

  • Facebook admits it can't guarantee that some political ads won't slip through the cracks and reach users who opt out, as the platform can't necessarily promise to track every political ad on its platform.

The big picture: Facebook's decision came alongside a slew of other updates to its political ad policies, including allowing users to see the potential reach of political ads and giving them better search options to find political ads within its library.

  • Since November, reports from inside Facebook have suggested the company was reconsidering some of the most controversial aspects of its broader political ad rules. Today's updates suggest that the company has chosen to stay the course for the 2020 election cycle.

Between the lines: One of the new controls that Facebook is rolling out will have implications far beyond politics.

  • Facebook also explained that later this month it will give users the ability to choose how advertisers targeting users via Facebook's "custom audiences" system can reach them. Advertisers who use the custom audiences approach to make ad targeting more efficient are allowed to create lists using data they have on people, like customer sales lists.
  • The control will apply to all advertisers, not just political advertisers, meaning consumers could limit how a retail or entertainment advertiser targets them using lists.

Our thought bubble: The historic level of investment in political ads this cycle, especially on platforms like Google and Facebook, means that users are being bombarded with political messaging now more than ever. Political fatigue is likely starting to set in.

What's next: Expect relentless criticism from candidates, particularly Democrats, of Facebook's policies — and if power changes hands in D.C. in November, more concrete moves to limit Facebook's influence.

Go deeper: Democrats are unimpressed with Facebook‘s new deepfakes policy

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Updated 4 mins ago - World

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai arrested under national security law

Media tycoon Jimmy Lai at the Next Digital offices in Hong Kong in June. Photo: Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images

Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai has been arrested for "collusion with foreign powers" and the offices of his newspaper raided, said Mark Simon, an executive at the tycoon's media firm Next Digital on Monday.

Why it matters: He was arrested under the new national security law that gives Beijing more powers over the former British colony. Lai is the most prominent person arrested under the law — which prompted the U.S. to sanction Chinese officials, including Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, over Beijing's efforts to strip the territory of its autonomy.

Updated 14 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 1:30 a.m. ET: 19,861,683 — Total deaths: 731,326 — Total recoveries — 12,115,825Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 1:30 a.m. ET: 5,044,864 — Total deaths: 162,938 — Total recoveries: 1,656,864 — Total tests: 61,792,571Map.
  3. Politics: Pelosi says states don't have the funds to comply with Trump's executive order on unemployment — Mnuchin says Trump executive orders were cleared by Justice Department.
  4. States: New York reports lowest rate of positive coronavirus test results since pandemic began
  5. Public health: Ex-FDA head: U.S. will "definitely" see 200,000 to 300,000 virus deaths by end of 2020. 
  6. Schools: 97,000 children test positive for coronavirus in two weeks — Nine test positive at Georgia school where photo showing packed hallway went viral .

97,000 children test positive for coronavirus in two weeks

A boy has his temperature checked as he receives a free COVID-19 test in South Los Angeles in July. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

At least 97,000 children tested positive for COVID-19 in the final two weeks of July and there's been an estimated 338,000 cases involving kids in the U.S. since the pandemic began, a new report finds.

Why it matters: The findings in the report by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association comes as schools and day cares look to reopen in the U.S., with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announcing Friday that school districts in the state can reopen in the fall amid lower coronavirus transmission rates.