Facebook’s roll-out of ban on political ads gets bumpy start; platform accused of anti-Trump bias

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Facebook’s ban on political advertising ahead of the Nov. 3 Election Day that began earlier this week got off to a rocky launch as the platform was accused of favoring the campaign of Democratic nominee Joe Biden over that of President Donald Trump.

Some political advertisers complained to the platform that they were improperly blocked while others pointed to rule-breaking posts they said may still be misleading, the Washington Post reported.

One user posted a screenshot of a political ad from the Biden campaign marked “sponsored” that encouraged people to go vote. The start date for the ad, which said it came from the Biden For President campaign, was Oct. 28, but Facebook’s ban on most political advertising took effect on Tuesday, Oct. 27.

The initial tweets pointing out the alleged discrepancy have since been deleted.

The Post noted that both the Biden and Trump campaigns increased spending dramatically on Facebook ads in the week before the Tuesday deadline. Facebook said only older ads could run in the week leading up to the ban.

Rob Flaherty, the Biden camp’s digital campaign director, ripped Facebook’s ban as “performative” and “immediately” broke on Tuesday.

Facebook officials did say that some pre-purchased Trump ads encouraging people to “vote today” without additional context broke the rules and were summarily removed, which led some of the president’s supporters to cry foul seeing the Biden ad a day later.

The Post noted:

Facebook’s decision to block new political ads in the run-up to the election, as well as all ads after voting has concluded, came as the company faced pressure to better police misinformation on its site that could help shape the public’s perception of the election. Russians and other foreign interference campaigns in 2016 targeted social media users to help influence election results, something the tech giants this year have pledged to try to prevent.

But the roll-out of the ban did not go as smoothly as the platform hoped.

According to Mark Jablonowski, managing partner of DSPolitical, some of his clients ran into problems on Facebook beginning Tuesday, the Post reported.

He said the firm’s Democratic clients were complaining that ads that were pre-approved and had been running were being blocked by Facebook as of Tuesday morning.

“Everyone from unions to major campaigns have reported experiencing these issues,” Jablonowski told the Post. “From what it appears, this is clearly a technology issue that they have not been able to resolve yet.”

The platform’s ads product manager Rob Leathern tweeted Tuesday afternoon the tech company’s engineers were looking into the issue of “ads being paused incorrectly, and some advertisers having trouble making changes to their campaigns.

“We’re working quickly on these fixes, and will share an update once they are resolved,” he wrote.

In September, Facebook announced it would ban political advertising seven days ahead of the Nov. 3 election date. However, the platform said that campaigns could still run ads that make it through Facebook’s system and even tweak the budget and placement of the ads.

The platform announced this week it is putting in place a number of tools aimed at dialing down post-election anger and vitriol in the wake of reports that the counting of ballots may take several days in some states.

The tools including lowering the standard for suppressing viral posts that could inflame emotions, measures that were previously utilized in Sri Lanka and Myanmar.


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