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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: SOPA Images / Contributor

Facebook said late Thursday that a mix of "technical problems" and confusion among advertisers around its new political ad ban rules caused issues affecting ad campaigns of both parties.

Why it matters: A report out Thursday morning suggested the ad tools were causing campaign ads, even those that adhered to Facebook's new rules, to be paused. Very quickly, political campaigners began asserting the tech giant was enforcing policies in a way that was biased against their campaigns.

"It is currently unclear to us whether or not Facebook is giving Donald Trump an unfair electoral advantage in this particular instance, but it is abundantly clear that Facebook was wholly unprepared to handle this election despite having four years to prepare," said Biden for President digital director Rob Flaherty in a statement provided to Axios.

Details: In a post addressing the issue, Facebook blamed the blockage on a technical glitch and said it's investigating the issue. The tech giant asserted that "No ad was paused or rejected by a person, or because of any partisan consideration."

Catch up quick: Facebook implemented its new political ad ban rule — which restricts political or issues ads from its platform for the week leading up to the election — on Tuesday at midnight.

  • Advertisers had been racing to get their ads approved and running before the ban went into effect so they could continue to show the messages to voters for the week leading up to the election while also following Facebook's rules.

The big picture: The tech giant has been slammed by critics on both sides of the aisle for a lack of transparency in the way it enforces its policies, leading some to think it's biased against one political party over another.

  • On an earnings call with investors, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company was focused on providing more transparency around the way its platform is used and the way it makes policy decisions.

By the numbers: Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg assured investors that political ads are only a tiny part of the company's bottom line on the same call. She noted that political and government ad revenue in the U.S. and globally was a low single-digit percentage of the company's total ad revenue in Q3.

  • “It's not a top 10 vertical in the U.S. and globally."

Be smart: Facebook often tries to downplay the role of political ads in its business, to make the case that its decision to continue to sell those ads is about its First Amendment values, not revenue.

  • The company keeps finding itself in complicated battles with both parties over its political ad policies.
  • Some of its competitors, like Twitter, have banned political ads altogether.

Go deeper: Political ads become 2020 flashpoint

Go deeper

Dec 2, 2020 - Technology

Showdown looms over digital services tax

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A fight over foreign countries' efforts to tax big American tech companies' digital services is likely to come to a head in January just as Joe Biden takes office.

The big picture: Governments have failed to reach a broad multilateral agreement on how to structure such taxes. That could leave the American firms that dominate consumer digital services — including Google, Facebook and Apple — stuck with massive tax bills from different countries.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
9 hours ago - Technology

TikTok gets more time (again)

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The White House is again giving TikTok's Chinese parent company more to satisfy national security concerns, rather than initiating legal action, a source familiar with the situation tells Axios.

The state of play: China's ByteDance had until Friday to resolve issues raised by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS), which is chaired by Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin. This was the company's third deadline, with CFIUS having provided two earlier extensions.

Federal judge orders Trump administration to restore DACA

DACA recipients and their supporters rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on June 18. Photo: Drew Angerer via Getty

A federal judge on Friday ordered the Trump administration to fully restore the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, giving undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children a chance to petition for protection from deportation.

Why it matters: DACA was implemented under former President Obama, but President Trump has sought to undo the program since taking office. Friday’s ruling will require Department of Homeland Security officers to begin accepting applications starting Monday and guarantee that work permits are valid for two years.