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Facebook considers political ad blackout ahead of US election: report

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  • Facebook is considering a “blackout” on political advertising in the run-up to the US election in November, according to Bloomberg.
  • It would be a first for Facebook, which has faced intense criticism over its policies on political advertising and hate speech in recent months.
  • Facebook hasn’t yet officially decided whether it will introduce the ban, and it’s not yet clear precisely how long it might last.

Facebook is reportedly contemplating a “blackout” on political ads in the run-up to the US presidential election.

According to a new report from Bloomberg on Friday, the Silicon Valley-based social-networking giant might place a ban on all political advertising in the “days” prior to hotly contested election, though the company has not yet made a final decision.

It’s not clear precisely how long the timeframe might be beyond “days,” and a company spokesperson did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.

Facebook has faced intense criticism over its stance on political advertising as the election approaches, with critics — and even some employees — calling for the company to reverse its decision not to fact-check political advertising, arguing it can spread misinformation. The company is also currently grappling with an unprecedented advertiser boycott over its policing of hate speech on the platform.

A political-ad blackout in the US would be a first for Facebook, but many countries already place varying restrictions on political campaigning or political reporting in the run-up to elections, including the UK, Spain, and Israel.

Facebook has explored — though not committed to — such an idea before. In December 2019, The Washington Post reported that the company had been thinking about such a blackout for a 72-hour timeframe, as well as other changes to political advertising, including “limiting the number of ads a single candidate can run at a time … and raising the minimum number of people that a campaign could target with an ad.”

Meanwhile, Twitter took a very different approach to its larger rival, banning political advertising altogether in October 2019.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has pushed back against a blanket ban on political ads, saying in a speech: “Given the sensitivity around political ads, I’ve considered whether we should stop allowing them altogether. From a business perspective, the controversy certainly isn’t worth the small part of our business they make up. But political ads are an important part of voice — especially for local candidates, up-and-coming challengers, and advocacy groups that may not get much media attention otherwise. Banning political ads favors incumbents and whoever the media covers.”

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