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Photo: Chesnot/Getty Images

Facebook said Friday that political candidates, campaigns and groups can use paid branded content across its platforms, a clarification prompted by a move from Michael Bloomberg's campaign to pay top Instagram influencers to post memes on its behalf.

The big picture: Its policy didn't explicitly state that it was OK for candidates to use branded content posts, but after hearing from various campaigns about the issue, Facebook moved to clarify its stance.

  • Branded content is a tricky area to define and regulate because it is more obscure about being an advertisement by design. The Federal Trade Commission released native content guidelines years ago, but their enforcement was difficult.
  • Recently, the FTC has cracked down more on influencers that haven't disclosed paid promotions, but there have been few examples of promotions for political purposes that were evaluated by the FTC or the Federal Election Commission, which also sets rules and boundaries for campaign expenditures.

Be smart: Branded content is different than advertising in that Facebook does not receive any money from branded content — and there are no ways to target branded content posts.

  • However, that ambiguity makes it harder for users sometime to understand what's a paid promotion and what's not.

The state of play: Facebook has agreed that branded content should be allowed to be used by candidates, as long as the candidates are authorized and the creators disclose paid partnerships through branded content tools, according to a spokesperson.

  • Facebook previously prohibited political candidates and campaigns from running branded content by default because it wanted to avoid any risk that such actions could be viewed as accounts giving monetary contributions to campaigns.
  • It's tweaking its approach now — only in the U.S. — because it believes that this is no longer a concern, given that it doesn’t provide payments as a feature of its branded content tools. 

Yes, but: If a campaign were to buy ads to boost its branded content, then it would be subject to Facebook's advertising policies. That paid promotion would then need to be included in Facebook public, searchable political ad library for seven years.

Go deeper

DOJ: Russians hacked federal prosecutors

Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Russian hackers behind the massive SolarWinds cyber-espionage campaign broke into the email accounts of some of the most prominent federal prosecutors' offices around the country last year, the Justice Department announced.

State of play: DOJ said 80% of Microsoft email accounts used by employees in the four U.S. attorney offices in New York were breached.

Biden's quick-trigger COVID problem

Seems like last year, but this was Thursday in Orlando. Photo: Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP

The Biden administration's handling of the Delta surge has left Americans confused and frustrated, fueling media overreaction and political manipulation.

Why it matters: The past year and a half have left Americans cynical about the government's COVID response, and — in many cases — misinformed or uninformed. We're getting fog and reversals when steady, clear-eyed, factual information is needed more than ever.

48 mins ago - Health

Chart: Less than 0.1% of vaccinated Americans infected with COVID-19

Expand chart
Data: CDC; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Of the 164 million vaccinated Americans, less than 0.1% have been infected with the coronavirus, and 0.001% have died, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Why it matters: While "breakthrough cases" have been getting some media attention, the low numbers show that the pandemic is mostly a threat for the unvaccinated population.