Facebook and Google aren’t lifting their political ad bans soon, most likely not until Donald Trump
sorts out a coup timeline concedes.
This morning, Facebook sent advertisers an email reviewed by Gizmodo announcing that the platform is suspending political and issue ads for another month. “While multiple sources have projected a presidential winner, we still believe it’s important to help prevent confusion or abuse on our platform,” the email reads. Facebook has updated its blog notifying advertisers of an anticipated month-long continuation, and Facebook spokesperson confirmed to Gizmodo that the policy will apply to boosted organic posts as well. (Facebook, however, states that “there may be an opportunity to resume these ads sooner” than one month from now.)
A Google spokesperson also confirmed to Gizmodo that the political ad ban will be continued, without specifying an end date.
Any reduction in misinformation is nice, but ads are only one head of the political misinformation hydra. At the moment, a Donald Trump rant about “ballot corruption” has the second-most interactions and twelfth-most shares on the platform. Facebook’s belated ban on Steve Bannon’s coordinated network of Stop the Steal pages doesn’t bode well in terms of swift policy enforcement; the company only shut down the Bannon-linked pages because coordinated posting on multiple pages qualified as “inauthentic behavior” in Facebook’s estimation.
YouTube’s post-election plan didn’t add much to its existing policies at all, only informational labels and minimizing misinformation-laden videos’ reach in recommendations and search. As a result, post-election propagandists are free to go about their business.
Eric Reif, managing director of the eStreet Group, worries that a continued ban on political ads could disproportionately hurt progressive senate candidates in the Georgia run-off elections in January. (Both Democratic senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Reverend Raphael Warnock have relied far more on small individual donations than their opponents.) “Facebook ads are one of the most effective ways grassroots-funded campaigns have to reach potential new supporters and donors because they’re targeted and cost-efficient,” Reif told Gizmodo via direct message on Twitter, noting that Facebook, Google search, and YouTube ads are the most effective recruitment efforts for email and SMS subscribers. “There are other options and the campaigns will have to get creative, but nothing else out there really matches the scale or reach of Google and Facebook combined, so it’s going to be a real uphill battle,” he added.
Looks like ads resume when we know more about the fate of democracy. We’ll circle back on that.