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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio / Axios

Nearly every major tech platform has acted to limit political ads in some way since 2016. Some have enacted strict bans and allow no political, social or election ads whatsoever, while others have put more temporary or partial limits in place.

Why it matters: Formal federal regulation of online political ads is not in sight, but the pressure on platforms from lawmakers and activists has so far been enough to push them to act voluntarily.

Driving the news: Facebook said Wednesday it plans to temporarily stop running all social issue and political ads in the U.S. after the polls close on November 3, a move similar to one Google announced two weeks ago.

Catch up quick: Long before the internet, the U.S. government passed sweeping laws governing political advertising on regulated media like television and radio. Those laws required advertisers to disclose their identities and spending information.

  • After the 2016 election, it became clear that Big Tech was not prepared to protect its platforms from being abused to manipulate voters and spread misinformation, including through advertising.
  • Critics began to pressure lawmakers and tech companies to create rules that would bring the same level of transparency to online ads that exists for broadcast ads.

The big picture: Congress has mostly given up on efforts in this area after it failed to pass the Honest Ads Act into law in 2018, and the Federal Election Commission, which can make rules around campaign spending, is essentially non-functional for now.

  • Various U.S. states, including California, New York, Virginia and Washington, have their own online election transparency laws. Other states have tried and failed to pass similar laws.

Yes, but: Big Tech's political ad crackdowns have mostly occurred in response to the threat of regulatory action after much tussling with Congressional offices on specific bill language.

  • Google and Facebook first began to ban political ads in Washington State in 2018, after the state's officials made sweeping changes to its campaign spending laws.
  • Since then, tech platforms have updated their political ad rules incrementally, with some platforms, like Twitter, Twitch, TikTok, Microsoft and LinkedIn, eventually banning all political ads.

Be smart: Most of these limits have been placed in response to the 2016 election, where tech platforms, but particularly Facebook, were blamed for Russian election interference.

  • Russian actors didn't spend enough money on political ads to influence the election, but they spent enough to spook tech firms into acting to get ahead of the problem.

The intrigue: After 2016, foreign interference was seen as the biggest problem platforms face with political information and ads. Now much of the worry is about American politicians spreading misinformation. Banning political ads is one way to limit both kinds of problems.

Data: Axios research; Table: Axios Visuals

Go deeper: Political ads become 2020 flashpoint

Go deeper

Facebook takes new steps to deter inauguration week violence

Photo: by Valera Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Facebook on Friday said it would block the creation of new events near the U.S. Capitol and state capitol buildings as it tries to prevent violence in the week of the inauguration.

Why it matters: Facebook and other tech companies are scrambling to stop their platforms from being used to plan or carry out violence following the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Tech scrambles to derail inauguration threats

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Tech companies are sharing more information with law enforcement in a frantic effort to prevent violence around the inauguration, after the government was caught flat-footed by the Capitol siege.

Between the lines: Tech knows it will be held accountable for any further violence that turns out to have been planned online if it doesn't act to stop it.

Dave Lawler, author of World
2 hours ago - World

Uganda's election: Museveni declared winner, Wine claims fraud

Wine rejected the official results of the election. Photo: Sumy Sadruni/AFP via Getty

Yoweri Museveni was declared the winner of a sixth presidential term on Saturday, with official results giving him 59% to 35% for Bobi Wine, the singer-turned-opposition leader.

Why it matters: This announcement was predictable, as the election was neither free nor fair and Museveni had no intention of surrendering power after 35 years. But Wine — who posed a strong challenged to Museveni, particularly in urban areas, and was beaten and arrested during the campaign — has said he will present evidence of fraud. The big question is whether he will mobilize mass resistance in the streets.