Facebook considers political ad ban through November

Linda J. Dodson

Dive Brief:

  • Facebook is considering a ban on political ads to its social network as the U.S. election in November approaches, unnamed sources told Bloomberg.
  • The decision has not been finalized, per the report, but the social giant is considering the action as a way to curb misleading information related to the election.
  • The discussion comes as the social network is under fire for allowing misinformation and hate speech to spread on its network, which has caused hundreds of brands including Adidas and Diageo to stop advertising on the network in a boycott called #StopHateforProfit.

Dive Insight:

In late June, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), NAACP and other civil rights organizations kicked off the #StopHateforProfit boycott that calls on major brands to stop advertising on Facebook to send the message that the network has become a breeding ground for misinformation and hate speech. By cutting all political ads, Facebook could be making a move to address this boycott and underlying concerns about how misinformation is spread.

Adidas, Diageo, Honda and Hershey are among the now 397 companies that have promised to avoid the social network’s advertising platform in the month of July, despite its power to reach targeted audiences. So far, Facebook has refused to pull ads or content in defenses of free speech. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has repeatedly said he would not police political ads, but the current boycott comes amid a unique cascade of global events, including a global pandemic and movement around addressing racial injustices, that could push the platform to make bigger changes.

However, Facebook’s potential ban on political ads would have other effects. While it may help prevent the spread of misleading information, it could also hurt campaigns designed to encourage people to vote or restrain candidates from responding to real-time events, as Bloomberg notes. It is not clear that banning political ads would address the proliferation of hate speech on the site.

Facebook has been an influential platform for politicians over the past decade, helping politicians reach millions of voters. It’s the leading digital platform for political ad spend, per eMarketer, earning 59.4% share during the 2019-2020 election cycle, or about $796.8 million. Political digital ad spend has been projected to help the advertising industry bounce back from pandemic-related losses, according to a WPP forecast.

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