Facebook Will Ban Political Ads after 2020 Election

A man opens the Facebook page on his computer in Abuja, Nigeria, March 19, 2020. (Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters)

Facebook announced Wednesday that it will temporarily ban all political ads after polls close on November 3 for the 2020 election in order to combat foreign interference, misinformation, and voter suppression.

“[W]e plan to temporarily stop running all social issue, electoral or political ads in the US after the polls close on November 3, to reduce opportunities for confusion or abuse,” Facebook wrote in a company blog post. “We will notify advertisers when this policy is lifted.”

The move was announced along with a number of other election year efforts, including how the platform will respond should a candidate declare victory before all votes have been counted. In that scenario, Facebook said it will provide information in users’ notifications that vote counting is still in progress and no winner has been determined.

The decision garnered criticism from Senator Elizabeth Warren, former Democratic presidential candidate, who accused Facebook of implementing “performative changes to try to avoid blame for misinformation on its platform.”

“The problem isn’t the ads themselves. The problem is Facebook’s refusal to regulate its ads, change its broken algorithm, or take responsibility for the power it’s amassed,” Warren said.

During the 2016 election, Facebook came under fire from critics who charged the social media platform with negligence for allowing Russian actors, among others, to spread misinformation and attempt to sow discord on the site. The company ramped up efforts to combat election meddling during the 2018 midterm elections.

Last year, Facebook announced efforts to tighten its rules on political advertising ahead of the 2020 elections, in an attempt to crack down on election interference after insidious actors ran rampant on the platform in 2016.

The move comes amid clashes between the Trump administration and Democrats over voting by mail. President Trump has said he opposes widespread voting by mail due to concerns that it could be a breeding ground for election fraud. Democrats, by contrast, have encouraged voters to cast their ballots by mail, citing the risk of contracting coronavirus at a polling place.

“Getting the final election results this year may take longer than previous elections due to the pandemic and more people voting by mail. So we’re preparing a range of policies and products to keep people informed and prevent the spread of misinformation,” Facebook said.

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