As a result of the #StopHateForProfit ad boycott and other intensifying pressure to do more to stop hate speech, Facebook Inc. executives are reconsidering the possibility of dropping political ads, according to Bloomberg, The New York Times and other news reports.
In addition to the boycott, Facebook — which has stressed that political advertising accounts for an insignificant portion of its total revenue — is being criticized by lawmakers, civil rights groups (who released a negative audit of the Facebook platform last week), and its own employees.
While Twitter banned political ads last year, Facebook has not only refused to ban them, but has taken a hands-off approach even to ads that include lies and misinformation, on grounds that its role is not to interfere with open political discourse.
The core issue being debated is whether banning political ads would help or harm “giving users a voice,” according to The Times’ knowledgeable sources.
An outright ban of political ads would be likely to anger both Republicans and Democrats.
While stopping ads could help stem misinformation and attempts to suppress voting, it could put less well-funded politicians and even the Democratic party as a whole — those who have become reliant on Facebook as an alternative to more expensive media — at a disadvantage.
Democrats have argued that the hate speech and information can be spread through posts and groups in any case, and that without access to advertising, they would be at a disadvantage to Trump’s campaign, given his having built up more than 28 million followers, versus presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s 2 million.
Republicans have argued that they need ads on Facebook to help counter what they maintain is media coverage biased against their party and President Trump.
Rather than ban advertising, Facebook should implement a system that “actually catches real-time voter misinformation,” Vanita Gupta, chief executive of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, told The Times. “Voter suppression is happening every day, and their inaction is going to have profound ramifications on the election.”
Facebook has not yet
responded to the news outlets' outreach.