Facebook Considers Banning Political Ads In The Lead-Up To The US Election
The social media platform is considering a temporary ban on political advertising in the days leading up to the U.S. election, which is due to take place in November. Though nothing has been finalised yet and the ban is still only a possibility, the news has sparked many discussions amongst users and political figures alike – with people falling on both sides of the debate.
Some are concerned that an ad blackout may hurt campaigns targeted at demographics whose primary news source is social media, while others have suggested that the potential ban may limit a candidate’s ability to respond widely to breaking news or new information. Then again, many have argued that this move will prevent the dissemination of political misinformation and could defend against misleading election-related content spreading as people prepare to vote – something which the company has previously been criticised for.
If Facebook were to pursue this ad ban, it would undoubtedly be a significant change for the company which has thus far maintained its policy of not fact-checking ads from politicians or their campaigns. This has prompted criticism from legal professionals, who have expressed the danger of the platform being used to spread lies and misinformation. This potential ad blackout then is likely another attempt by the company to regain some legitimacy and reliability as a news source, something which follows the platform’s recent decision to introduce a new feature that warns users before sharing content that is more than 90 days old. Many users were consistently spreading old news which misconstrued the state of current affairs; users will now be made aware of the timeliness of the article and must subsequently make the conscious decision of whether they ‘continue,’ or ‘go back.’
The power of political advertising through social media is undeniable. In 2016, Donald Trump used Facebook ads and the company’s targeting capabilities to reach millions of voters with tailored messaging, a strategy that some believe helped win him the election; therefore, the removal of this tactic will undoubtedly have considerable repercussions. The jury still seems to be out however on whether this is a positive step towards the company’s tackling of political propaganda, or an infringement upon free speech.
Whatever Facebook decides, what has become clear is that the company is decidedly more aware of the responsibility it possesses as a modern news outlet, which, in the age of fake news, is likely a positive thing.