October 22, 2020

Facebook Said to Consider Banning Political Ads

SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook is considering banning political advertising across its network before the November general election, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions, in what would be a stark change to the social network’s practices.

The decision has not been finalized yet, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions were confidential, and the company could continue with its current political advertising policy.

A Facebook spokesman declined to comment. Bloomberg News earlier reported the potential change in policy.

For months, Facebook has allowed politicians, lobbyist groups and political parties to run issue and policy ads across the network virtually unchecked, even if those ads contained falsehoods or misinformation. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, has repeatedly said he would not police politicians’ ads and that the company was not an arbiter of truth, citing free speech.

He has also said that removing political advertising from the network could harm smaller, down-ballot candidates who are less well-funded than nationally prominent politicians. Mr. Zuckerberg has said that political advertising makes up a negligible amount of Facebook’s revenue, and that the decision was not based on financial considerations.

But that stance has led to a backlash against the social network. Lawmakers, civil rights groups and the company’s own employees have assailed it for letting hate speech and misinformation flourish on its site. In recent weeks, advertisers such as Unilever and Coca-Cola have paused their advertising on the platform in protest.

This week, a two-year audit of the company’s policies found Facebook had not done enough to protect people on the platform from discriminatory posts and ads and that its decisions to leave up some recent inflammatory posts from President Trump were “significant setbacks for civil rights.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.