Facebook Parent Meta Rethinks Election Ads Ban Ahead of 2022 Midterms
(Bloomberg) -- Facebook owner Meta Platforms Inc. is rethinking its policy of banning new political advertisements in the final days before an election, part of its preparation for the 2022 midterms, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Meta employees in recent days have been re-evaluating how that policy was executed during the 2020 U.S. election and whether there were potential unintended consequences, said the person, who wasn’t authorized to speak on the record. No final decisions have been made about whether the policy will change, the person said.
A Meta spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
In 2020, Facebook announced it would block new political and issue ads from running on its social network during the final week of the presidential race, as a way to prevent last-minute manipulation of the election. Political candidates could still promote existing ads that had already been uploaded to Facebook and adjust the targeting for those campaigns.
The company later extended the ban in the weeks following the election as then-U.S. President Donald Trump, who had been suspended from the network, publicly fought the outcome of the vote. Facebook allowed some political ads around a Senate runoff in Georgia in early January, but blocked all political ads again on Jan. 6.
One thing that Meta employees might look at are the factors that that determine what qualifies as a new ad. Campaigns that wanted to change their ad from “don’t forget to vote next week” to “don’t forget to vote tomorrow” were considered to be putting out a new ad under the old policy, the person said.
Trump had ads removed that said “vote today” that he had uploaded a week earlier, presumably to sidestep the pre-election ban.
The discussions, which are ongoing, are part of a larger effort by Meta to prepare for the high-stakes 2022 midterm elections.
Democrats’ slim majorities in both chambers -- and the headwinds typically faced by a president’s party in the first midterms -- mean Republicans have a good chance of winning control of the House and potentially the Senate. This will also be the first major election since Trump refused to accept his 2020 loss and pushed other Republicans to question the integrity of that vote.
Social media companies are going to have to make tough calls about what content to take action against and what to leave alone in an election when all 435 seats in the House are up for grabs, as well as 34 of the 100 Senate seats.
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