Facebook has a solution for users looking to avoid political ads heading into the 2020 U.S. election.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday, in an op-ed in USA Today, said the social network is introducing a new feature allowing users to block political ads. The feature began rolling out to some users on Wednesday.
“For those of you who’ve already made up your minds and just want the election to be over, we hear you — so we’re also introducing the ability to turn off seeing political ads,” Zuckerberg said. “We’ll still remind you to vote.”
Facebook users, once their accounts have the feature, will be able to turn off political ads by going to Facebook’s advertising settings. The video below should help out:
Facebook and Zuckerberg have both been heavily criticized over the last year for the tech giant’s decision to not moderate political ads. That decision drew the ire of Senator Elizabeth Warren last fall. More recently, presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden ripped Facebook as a “tool to spread misinformation” — even though the Biden campaign has still spent millions of dollars on Facebook ads over the last three months.
“After foreign operatives and rightwing trolls used Facebook to hack the 2016 election, Facebook vowed ‘never again’ and promised to take action. But with fewer than 5 months until the 2020 election, Facebook seems to be on a crash course to let the same mistakes happen again,” Biden said last week. “Tens of millions of Americans rely on Facebook as a news source. But the company continues to amplify misinformation and lets candidates pay to target and confuse voters with lies.”
Biden’s criticism comes after Facebook was widely criticized last fall for not pulling political ads containing lies; his criticism also comes after Facebook has been ripped over the last few years for its inability to weed out Russian trolls during the 2016 U.S. election. Still, there is little reason to believe bogus Russian ads played a major role in shaping the results of the 2016 election. A study from Oxford University found Russian trolls, working for the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency, spent less than $75,000 on Facebook ads between 2015 and 2017.
Zuckerberg has set himself apart from other tech executives for wanting to take a more hands-off approach to moderating what politicians post. Twitter, on the other hand, recently attached fact-check notifications to tweets from President Trump regarding mail-in voting, and Snapchat stopped promoting President Trump’s account earlier this month, claiming his recent comments had”incited racial violence and injustice.”
In his USA Today piece, Zuckerberg doubled down on his belief Facebook users are better off hearing what politicians have to say, rather than having the company aggressively moderate content.
“Everyone wants to see politicians held accountable for what they say — and I know many people want us to moderate and remove more of their content. We have rules against speech that will cause imminent physical harm or suppress voting, and no one is exempt from them,” Zuckerberg said. “But accountability only works if we can see what those seeking our votes are saying, even if we viscerally dislike what they say.”