Facebook and Instagram will allow users in the United States to turn off political ads paid for by a politician or political entity, like a political action committee (PAC), as reported by CNN. The ads may be about political and social issues and display a “paid for by” tag. The onus is then on the users to block ads they don’t want to see. The bigger matter, of course, is that Facebook continues to stick by its allowance of misinformation from politicians in paid ads on its platform.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg shared the news in an op-ed published on Tuesday. "For those of you who've already made up your minds and just want the election to be over, we hear you,” he wrote. But when it comes to transparency, accountability, and making sure users get a fair shot at receiving accurate information, being heard remains to be seen.
Twitter recently began using labels to fact-check tweets. Of course some of Trump’s tweets were flagged, including as “glorifying violence.” And on that subject, Zuckerberg argued that Facebook shouldn’t be the “arbiter of truth” for what people say online. If anything reinforces that sentiment, it’s probably the incident from last October in which Facebook refused to pull a Trump ad filled with lies about Joe Biden and Ukraine, even though the information was blatantly false. In terms of Trump posts, he spread misinformation about voting by mail on the platform in early June.
You might remember last October, for example, when Sen. Elizabeth Warren played by Facebook’s rules and bought a Facebook ad claiming that Zuckerberg endorsed Trump for president. This move hit especially heavily as we know that the Trump campaign historically spends a load of money on Facebook advertising. Overall, Warren wanted more accountability and transparency and used this loophole in Facebook’s regulations to make her point.
You also may remember that in February, when then-presidential hopeful Mike Bloomberg was still in the race, the Bloomberg campaign “contracted” influencers to post wry memes about the Democrat to Instagram. These sorts of posts used to be banned from Facebook and Instagram as a rule, but the platform changed its policy to allow “branded content” from politicians as long as it’s explicitly marked as such. Posts will appear with the tag “Paid Partnership with” as a disclosure.
Former vice president and presumptive Democratic nominee for president Joe Biden launched a campaign asking Facebook to implement a two-week period prior to the election in which all political ads could be fact-checked before appearing on the site. The campaign also asks Facebook to add rules that ban lies about voting.
As a response to Biden’s open letter, Facebook wrote that it would “protect political speech, even when we strongly disagree with it.”