Starting today, Facebook in the United States, users will have the option to “deactivate” any political advertising on the platform. Last year, the company made the controversial decision not to check the facts or moderate political ads, but the new feature will give users more control over what they see, at least for users who decide to deactivate the new parameter.
Facebook made the announcement Tuesday in a blog article and editorial by Mark Zuckerberg. The post noted that the company originally announced the new option in January, but will now add it to the platform as it prepares for the 2020 US presidential election. The option will appear immediately for some US users , deploying more widely in the coming weeks. The option to deactivate political advertising will apply to political, electoral and social advertising for candidates, Super PACs and other groups. The option will appear for users directly on any political advertisement on Facebook and Instagram or via the advertisement settings of one of the platforms.
“By giving people a voice, by registering and eliminating voters and by preventing interference, I believe Facebook is supporting and strengthening our democracy in 2020 and beyond,” Zuckerberg wrote in USA Today. “And for those of you who have already made a decision and who just want the election to be over, we hear you – we are also introducing the option to opt out of political announcements. We will always remind you to vote.”
Facebook may have already announced plans to allow users to see fewer political ads, but the language in its blog earlier this year only indicated that it would add a setting to allow people to see “fewer” ads policies – not to turn them on entirely as the company advertises now. The January post also defended the company’s decision not to check political ads or limit its targeting tools.
In the educational video provided by the company, the parameter proposes to show users “fewer ads on this subject” rather than deactivating them completely. We asked Facebook to explain this discrepancy.
Last week, the presidential candidate Joe Biden called on the company to verify the facts of his political advertisement in the two weeks before the US elections. While Facebook’s added option is a small change, it’s still a rare concession for critics of his stubbornly laissez-faire vision of political ads on its platform.
Facebook plans to make the new setting available beyond the United States “in the countries where we run ads on social, election and political issues” starting in the fall. The company is also implementing two changes to ad transparency, ensuring that “paid by” disclaimers on political ads follow them after they are shared and allowing anyone using the ad library to the business to track advertising expenses for congressional races. Previously, this was only available for US presidential campaigns.
In addition to the changes to the way it handles political advertising, Facebook has also announced a voting information center, a central center that will provide US voters with information on how to register to vote, how to request a postal or correspondence ballot, any requirements relating to identification and when and where to vote. The information center will also collect local alerts from election officials who may notice adjustments to voting methods in light of COVID-19. The new voting information center will build on the coronavirus information center that Facebook launched in March.
According to the blog, the information collected in the new American polling center will evolve as voters “ go through different phases of the election ”, such as registration clippings, deadlines for requesting votes by correspondence, early voting periods and election day itself.
Facebook calls the effort “ another line of defense ” against electoral interference, clearly seeking to avoid a repetition of its role in amplifying disinformation in the 2016 presidential election – a profoundly consecutive failure to which the company continues to face four years later.