Facebook holds out against pressure to ban political ads

The social networking giant says it will offer controls allowing users to see ‘fewer' political and social issue ads.

Facebook continues to resist pressure to ban political ads and said it will not limit targeting like tech rival Google.

Instead, the social networking giant is opting to provide people with more transparency, making it easier to use its online library of political ads, as well as improved controls allowing users to see “fewer” political and social issue ads.

Fact-checking of political ads also remains off the table as the company prepares for the 2020 US presidential election.

Rob Leathern, Facebook’s director of product management, said the firm was “not deaf” to the criticism and public debate received in response to its stance on the issue.

Ahead of the UK general election, Twitter decided to ban political ads entirely, as did TikTok, while Google banned advertisers from targeting voters based on their political affiliation.

Facebook said it had considered a similar approach to Google, but heard about the importance “for reaching key audiences” after speaking to a range of non-governmental organisations, non-profits, political groups and campaigns, including both Republican and Democrat committees in the US.

The social network maintains that decisions about political ads should not be made by private companies and argues for regulation that would apply across the industry.

Facebook does not fact-check political ads (Niall Carson/PA)

“In the absence of regulation, Facebook and other companies are left to design their own policies,” Mr Leathern said.

“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.”

Expanded transparency features will be available from the first quarter of 2020 in countries where “paid for by” disclaimers are placed on political ads.

Meanwhile, political ad controls will be rolled out from early summer in the US, before eventually expanding to more locations.

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