Facebook has been very busy trying to present itself as a blameless arbiter of truth and fairness for the past couple of years, and one of its initiatives to try to correct the way it has arguably ruined society is to publicly list ads paid for by political parties and candidates, because transparency.
However, now that US presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg has started paying social media influencers to post memes about him (did we really just type that? Dear lord), Facebook has decided that doesn’t count.
The company told the BBC:
“Branded content is different from advertising, but in either case, we believe it’s important people know when they’re seeing paid content on our platforms.
We’re allowing US-based political candidates to work with creators to run this content, provided the political candidates are authorised and the creators disclose any paid partnerships through our branded content tools.”
In other words, as long as Instagrammers make the connection with Bloomberg clear, Facebook won’t put the ads in its 7-year political ad library.
It’s a baffling decision from a company that could really do without pissing people off any further. The whole point of the ad library was to ensure that people could see what messages political parties, candidates and campaigns were putting out into the world. If paying influencers is a way around that, guess what everyone’s going to do?
No one wants to see pro-Trump memes on Instagram. Actually, we don’t want political memes at all, if they’re endorsed by the politicians themselves. That’s not what meme culture is about.
Bloomberg apparently paid a company called Meme2020 (sigh) to “make him look cool.”
Bizarrely, Facebook also says it’ll be fact-checking posts by influencers, but only if they’re writing as themselves and not the politician ” although who knows how much control the campaign has behind the scenes?
Quoth the BBC:
“For example, a post that said “I will vote for candidate X because they can fly” would be fact-checked.
A post that said “candidate X says ‘vote for me because I can fly'” would not.”
Clear as mud, then.
Right now the new rules are only for the US, but judging by Facebook’s previous moves in this arena, we can expect them to roll out globally including the UK. Honestly, when Twitter and TikTok’s political ad policies look good next to yours, it’s time to reconsider.
This post originally appeared on Gizmodo UK, which is gobbling up the news in a different timezone.