Facebook Will Give Users More Control Over Targeted Political Ads

The policy marks a break with other major social media platforms

Facebook targeted political ads
The company says it wants to increase transparency surrounding the ways political ads are targeted.
LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images
By Carl Caminetti / January 9, 2020 5:22 pm

While Facebook says it will not limit how political ads are targeted to potential voters on the platform, the company announced it will give users tools to control how often they see these ads, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The move marks a break from other major tech companies, with Facebook arguing that a private company should not dictate or interfere with how political ads reach voters. Facebook also announced plans to increase transparency surrounding the sharing of political ads.

In a memo from Rob Leathern, Facebook’s director of product management, the company cited “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 scrutinized and debated in public.” However, Leathern added that he new policy “does not mean that politicians can say whatever they like in advertisements on Facebook.”

While other tech companies and social-media platforms have responded to increasing pressure to stop the spread of misinformation in the run up to the 2020 election by limiting or blocking targeted political ads, Facebook has distinguished itself by instead increasing transparency and giving users more control over what they see. Users currently have the ability to block ads from any individual advertisers, and the expanded transparency features will allow them to limit ads based on how an advertiser constructed its list of targeted users. The new control feature is expected to launch in the US this summer on Facebook and Instagram.

“Ultimately, we don’t think decisions about political ads should be made by private companies, which is why we are arguing for regulation that would apply across the industry,” said Leathern.

“We recognize this is an issue that has provoked much public debate—including much criticism of Facebook’s position,” he added. “We are not deaf to that and will continue to work with regulators and policy makers in our ongoing efforts to help protect elections.”

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