Facebook Bans New Political Ads Week Before Election Day

The social network will also add warning labels if President Trump or Joe Biden’s accounts declare an early victory, Mark Zuckerberg said

Facebook said it will not be accepting new political ads the week before Election Day on November 3, while also working to curb “clear misinformation” on COVID-19 and voting.

The social network, in a blog post posted Thursday, said it will be taking a number of steps to safeguard the election in the months ahead, including removing posts claiming people will get COVID-19 if they decide to vote in-person. Facebook will also add a warning label to posts aiming to “delegitimize the outcome of the election,” and will add another warning label if either President Trump or President Biden’s account declares victory before the final election results are in.

Facebook added another new measure to reduce the spread of misinformation on Thursday, saying it would limit users to forwarding messages to only five people at a time.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg, in a post on his Facebook page, said he’s “concerned about the challenges people could face when voting.” He said he’s also worried about the “divide” in the U.S. and how it could lead to civil unrest while the election results are finalized, perhaps over a period of days or weeks.

“This election is not going to be business as usual. We all have a responsibility to protect our democracy,” Zuckerberg wrote. “That means helping people register and vote, clearing up confusion about how this election will work, and taking steps to reduce the chances of violence and unrest.”

Zuckerberg expanded on Facebook’s decision in a Thursday interview with CBS News, saying it was imperative to weed out political misinformation around the election.

“If someone tries to prematurely declare victory, whether it’s in a presidential election or any of the others — before there’s a consensus on who won that election — then we’re gonna add some context and a label to that post saying, ‘There isn’t an official result on this election,'” Zuckerberg said.

Facebook’s decision to ban political ads a week before the election comes about a year after prominent Democrats like Elizabeth Warren ripped the company for not fact-checking their ads for lies.

Zuckerberg, during a speech a Georgetown University last year, explained why he didn’t want to ban political ads with lies or misinformation in them. He said he believed “in a democracy it’s really important that people can see for themselves what politicians are saying, so they can make their own judgments,” before adding he’s doesn’t think “a private company should be censoring politicians or news.”

Facebook will continue to allow ads with lies or information in them.

Zuckerberg’s views on political ads were not shared by all of his Silicon Valley peers. Twitter banned all political advertising last November, for instance, juxtaposing itself against Facebook in the process. The decision was likely made easier by the fact that only a fraction of Twitter’s sales stemmed from political ads. Twitter CFO Ned Segal in October shared that the company made about $3 million from political ads during the 2018 midterm election cycle — or about 0.46% of the $650 million in total ad revenue Twitter received during the third quarter of 2018.

Facebook shares were down about 3.4% in early morning trading on Thursday, hitting $292.32 per share.