Facebook extends ban on U.S. political ads for another month


(Reuters) – Facebook Inc expects that its post-election ban on political ads will last another month, according to an email the social media company sent to advertisers on Wednesday.

Facebook, which had announced the ban as part of measures to combat misinformation and other abuses on its site, had previously said the ban would last at least a week but could be extended.

“While multiple sources have projected a presidential winner, we still believe it’s important to help prevent confusion or abuse on our platform,” Facebook said in the email, seen by Reuters, which told advertisers to expect the pause to last another month though there “may be an opportunity to resume these ads sooner.”

As false claims about voting integrity multiply on social media, Alphabet Inc’s Google also appears to be sticking with its post-election political ad ban, planned to last at least a week after polls closed on Nov. 3.

Facebook and Google declined to comment on the length of their ad pauses. A Google spokeswoman previously said the company would lift its ban based on factors such as the time needed for votes to be counted and whether there was civil unrest.

The bans mean that the platforms are not currently accepting election ads ahead of the two U.S. Senate runoff races in Georgia that could decide control of that chamber.

“It is driving us absolutely bonkers,” said Mark Jablonowski, managing partner of DS Political, a digital firm that works with Democratic causes.

“They’re essentially holding the rest of the political process hostage,” said Eric Wilson, a Republican digital strategist, who said he thought the companies’ concerns about ads on the election outcome did not require a blanket ban. “This is something that deserves a scalpel and they’re using a rusty ax,” he added.

Democratic digital strategists who spoke to Reuters this week said the companies’ ad measures failed to combat a bigger problem: the organic spread of viral lies.

Baseless claims about the election reverberated around social media this week as President Donald Trump continued to challenge the validity of the outcome, even as state officials reported no significant irregularities and legal experts cautioned he had little chance to overturn Democratic President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford and Ayanti Bera; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Bernadette Baum