Facebook Lets Users Opt Out Of Political Messages. Should TV?

Now that Facebook lets you opt out of seeing political advertising -- you may wonder when TV will do the same.

Well, one can dream -- as we still can vote.

Facebook's move comes after years of criticism, stemming from the 2016 presidential election. Going into the 2020 election, it looks to give an option -- as perhaps fraud/manipulation/disclosure concerns rise again. (Today, it also removed a Trump campaign ad, citing a Nazi symbol.)

Linear TV stations aren’t likely -- or just technologically can’t -- offer the same option. Much of this stems from what is expected to be another record-breaking year for political advertising on local TV.



Already, TV stations have been under some duress, due to the postponement of TV sports events, as well as the Summer Tokyo Olympics. They are desperate to see one of their big money makers fill up ad revenue coffers.

While free speech seems to be a key component of how Facebook wants to operate, it also seems to suggest that 1) It can’t verify where some political advertising comes from, 2) It can’t determine the veracity of the messaging, and 3) It can’t find another way to appease its user base.

By comparison, TV can, broadly speaking, verify where its political advertising money is coming from, including PACs.

But what about premium video/digital media platforms -- like connected TV operations that use third-party aggregators and other demand-side buying platforms? Concerning all the fraud issues that abound, this may be a problem.

Facebook wants to focus on what it can handle, including the voting process. For its part, it wants to help get 4 million people registered to vote. Previously, it did the same, to a lesser degree, for the 2016 and 2018 elections.

On linear TV, viewers do have some options when it comes to avoiding ad messaging. Political TV advertising can be easily skipped through time-shifted TV technology. Live TV content -- news and sports  -- is a different story. (That said, there is always the mute button.)

Still, perhaps ever-sketchy TV attack ads might blur the lines of what digital media confronts. So what kind of engagement can we expect from consumers to this year’s political advertising, especially from the Biden and Trump advertising campaigns?

2 comments about "Facebook Lets Users Opt Out Of Political Messages. Should TV?".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, June 19, 2020 at 9:58 a.m.

    Wayne, "linear TV" audiences have other ways to avoid uneanted commercials---or, rather, breaks, as they don't really know which commercial is coming next in a break featuring 6-10 ad messages of various lengths. These avoidance methods are  a) leaving the room which happens anywhere from 20-30% of the time, depending on whose numbers you use and b), simply not paying attention even while in the room, which happens  more often than leaving it.

    Of course, you are right, no TV station or network is going to censure ads that viewers may not want to see, however, the networks routinely police brand ad messages before allowing them on the air if they seem to be making misleading or totally bogus claims. When such commercials are rejected, the stations usually folow the networks' lead and don't air them. I am not sure how this long establisehd practice is applied to political ads, which are full of wild and reckless claims as well as persomnal attacks. I wonder if anyone, with specific information cares to comment on this latter issue?

  2. Tony Jarvis from Olympic Media Consultancy, June 19, 2020 at 4:40 p.m.

    I echo Ed's challenge to Media Post (Joe Mandese??) on this fundamental media issue not just regarding political ad policing on video platforms (both linear, so called, and digital) but concerning all "inappropriate" material across all media. 
    I suggest the entire complex issue relates to protecting "free speech" on the one hand and "executing responsible publishing guidelines based on acceptable norms for decent communication" on the other.  The latter embraces the scared responsibility that any upstanding publisher will follow in not allowing blatant misleading, bogus or even more important hateful, brutal or overtly racist material on their platforms especially if it incites riots or unlawfull behaviour, etc. 
    Legally the whole issue for social media appears to revolve around Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.  "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider" (47 U.S.C. § 230).  This statute is long overdue for a major overhaul in the current climate.
    The consistent and on-going atrious behaviour of 'Fakebook' resulted in it being described as "digital gangsters" by a UK Parliamentary Commitee report in February 2019. Mark Zuckerberg was a no-show to the Parliamentary Committee after months of obfuscation!  It is on the record that 'Fakebook' has paid many millions in fines over many years in many countries for data abuses of their subscribers along with "permitting" hateful rhetoric, etc. 
    Surely 'Fakebook' and its various social media competitors have shown that it is simply time for them to accept and start acting like what they truely are, Publishers; and consequently take full responsibility for everything they publish.  (I believe Joe Scarborough would agree with me after his rant on Zuckerberg and his $billions on MSNBC June 17th.) 
    Perhaps a good starting point case study on which to assess Section 230, is from the traditional and generally very responsible media publishing side.  The entire sequence, reactions and consequences from The New York Times when it published Senator Tom Cotton's blatant fascist and possibly treasonous rant offers funadmental lessons to all publishers including social media.  
    Social Media sites are and must be designated as publishers and as such follow accepted responsibilities and accountabilities to citizens worldwide! 

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