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.

Go deeper

Governments around the globe find ways to abuse Facebook

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

While regulators in the U.S. and Europe circle Facebook and scrutinize its every move, in much of the rest of the world its platform remains ill-defended against election tampering, human rights violations, autocratic misuse and other information disorders.

The big picture: The consequences of this void are huge yet hardly acknowledged by Western regulators, who are most concerned with the misinformation spreading in their own backyards.

Facebook and Twitter, the reluctant gatekeepers

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Deciding who gets to say what online is a complex business in the best of times, and the 2020 election is showing social media platforms just how messy it can get.

The big picture: Balancing concerns over misinformation, hacking and foreign meddling against free-speech principles is already hard enough. Tackling it in real time in the middle of a political knife fight is almost certainly going to go awry.

Anti-Trump Lincoln Project raised $39.4 million in third quarter

Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

The Lincoln Project, a group of anti-Trump Republicans that has produced a number of the election cycle's most viral political attack ads, raised $39.4 million from July through September, according to Federal Election Commission records filed Wednesday.

Why it matters: The group run by Republicans and ex-Republicans has been growing its fundraising exponentially, shattering the $16.8 million record it set in the second quarter of 2020. It has since won over many more Democratic donors with deep pockets, while still receiving a large percentage of its total fundraising from donations under $200.