Social media giant Facebook has announced that it will not accept any new political ads in the seven days prior to the US election on November 3.
While it won’t accept new political ads during this period prior to the election, Facebook will still allow existing ads to continue to be promoted and targeted at different users. The decision was announced in a post by Facebook chief executive officer (CEO) Mark Zuckerberg.
According to Zuckerberg, he was “worried” about divisions in the country potentially leading to civil unrest. He also mentioned that the platform will also label posts from candidates attempting to declare victory prior to the final vote count.
Facebook and political ads
Last year, the social media platform faced massive criticism due to its policy of not fact-checking political ads.
During Facebook’s third quarter earnings report, Zuckerberg argued “we need to be careful about adopting more and more rules” surrounding political speech.
Zuckerberg said: “In a democracy, I don’t think it’s right for private companies to censor politicians or the news.”
He then proceeded by saying that he will “continue” evaluating whether it is beneficial to allow political ads on Facebook, but that so far he concludes that allowing political advertising is the better choice.
He also pointed out that political advertising will only account for less than 0.5 percent of the company’s revenue in 2020, implying that despite criticism over Facebook’s policies, the company reaps very little financial benefits from the stance.
In January, Star Wars actor Mark Hamill decided to delete his Facebook account due to the social networking company’s policy on political ads. He also accused the Facebook CEO of prioritizing profit over truthfulness.
Hamill wrote on his tweet: “So disappointed that #MarkZuckerberg values profit more than truthfulness that I’ve decided to delete my @Facebook account. I know this is a big ‘Who Cares?’ for the world at large, but I’ll sleep better at night. #PatriotismOverProfits”
Microtargeting of ads
The social network has also been criticized for allowing political ads to be “micro-targeted” on its platform so that they are only seen by small communities instead of being debated more widely in the days after they appear.
The Mozilla Foundation pointed out that this enables politicians and their supporters to peddle fake information as fact and avoid being called out on it until it is too late.
The new measures could serve as a precedent on how it would handle elections in other places in the future.
Facebook also vowed to remove videos of US President Donald Trump encouraging voters in North Carolina to vote twice, which is illegal.
In a statement, the firm said that any videos of Trump’s comments without contextualizing information would be removed from the platform. It said: “This video violates our policies prohibiting voter fraud and we will remove it unless it is shared to correct the record.”
Zuckerberg also wrote in the post: “This election is not going to be business as usual. With our nation so divided and election results potentially taking days or even weeks to be finalized, there could be an increased risk of civil unrest across the country.”