Political ads on Facebook have long proven a lightning rod for controversy. They’re all too easy to pack with misinformation, while removing misleading ads is its own separate ordeal. Experts such as professor and digital rights advocate David Carroll have long suggested banning microtargeted political ads from Facebook, following the Cambridge Analytica fiasco from the 2016 election.
Now, it appears the social media monolith may be temporarily doing away with political ads altogether.
As Bloomberg reports, Facebook Inc. is weighing the option of banning political ads from the site in the lead-up to November’s presidential election. If it does, it won’t be a big financial hit: Zuckerberg has said that political ads represent just 0.5% of the company’s revenue, though it could sour the corporate relationship with the Trump administration, which has focused on Facebook ads as a key part of its 2020 reelection strategy.
News of this possibility follows weeks of the ongoing Stop Hate for Profit campaign, during which hundreds of advertisers including major corporations like Levi Strauss, Pfizer, and The North Face have begun to boycott Facebook over its laissez-faire approach to divisive content. Although the boycott is meant as a rebuke to a wide variety of hateful content that crops up on the social media site, it began as a response to Facebook’s refusal to implement measures similar to Twitter’s new “manipulated media” warning on Trump’s tweets, or its hiding of presidential messages glorifying violence.
While the ban is only being discussed at this point, as Bloomberg points out, some within Facebook are concerned that an ad blackout may harm voter registration and motivation campaigns, or limit candidates’ non-ad messaging. However, pre-election blackouts on Facebook are not without precedent: They’re a fixture in other countries, including the U.K.