The upcoming U.S. presidential election is going to be an absolute nightmare, with habitual liar and white supremacist Donald Trump squaring off against a yet unchosen Democratic challenger on November 3, 2020. But Facebook is doing one thing that will hopefully make the election slightly less bad. Mark Zuckerberg’s platform of disinformation will soon give users the option to see fewer political ads.
Facebook made the announcement this morning in a blog post by Rob Leathern, Director of Product Management, who also announced that the company would be expanding its Ad Library, an online portal which allows people to track how different political campaigns are spending money.
Facebook says that it will be rolling out the ability to limit your ad exposure during “early summer” in the U.S. and will expand the feature to other parts of the world after that.
See fewer political ads: Seeing fewer political and social issue ads is a common request we hear from people. That’s why we plan to add a new control that will allow people to see fewer political and social issue ads on Facebook and Instagram. This feature builds on other controls in Ad Preferences we’ve released in the past, like allowing people to see fewer ads about certain topics or remove interests
The rest of Facebook’s blog post is the company doubling down on the fact that it won’t remove ads from politicians who lie on its network. Facebook’s position is that it shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth and would like to see federal laws that tell the company how it should handle political speech on the platform.
We have based ours on the principle that people should be able to hear from those who wish to lead them, warts and all, and that what they say should be scrutinised and debated in public. This does not mean that politicians can say whatever they like in advertisements on Facebook. All users must abide by our Community Standards, which apply to ads and include policies that, for example, ban hate speech, harmful content and content designed to intimidate voters or stop them from exercising their right to vote. We regularly disallow ads from politicians that break our rules.
The only problem with this is that Facebook actually doesn’t remove ads that violate its own policies. As just one example, President Trump recently used the racial slur “Pocahontas” to refer to Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren. The ad ran like normal.
And all of that is to say nothing of Trump’s just generally more fascist tone in all of his ads.
“This is an attack on Democracy. An attack on freedom. An attack on everything we hold dear in this country,” one of President Trump’s latest Facebook ads said. “It’s US against THEM in this impeachment war. And we need to strike first.”
If you take a close look at the new blog post from Facebook, it’s clear that executives at the company might be spending too much time listening to one party over the other. The post refers to “both Republican and Democrat committees in the US,” when it should read “Democratic committees.”
Fox News and other right-wing news outlets have spend the past few decades often referring to the Democratic Party as the “Democrat Party.” Wikipedia even refers to the use of the term as an epithet. The goal was to strip the word “democratic” (a positive thing) from being associated with the party, and it seems to have worked on people who don’t know any better.
Perhaps the people of Facebook are watching too much Fox News. Or, as we well know, Facebook board members are spending too much time having dinner at the White House and literally advising the President of the United States.
At the end of the day, at least people will be able to see fewer political ads on Facebook. It’s a small win, but we’ll take what we can get at this point.