Facebook Argues That Bloomberg-Sponsored Memes Are Not Political Ads

The world of online political ads got a little more complicated

Michael Bloomberg
Facebook has sparked controversy by determining that a series of memes sponsored by the Bloomberg campaign are not political ads.
Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons
By Tobias Carroll / February 15, 2020 1:22 pm

Facebook’s handling of political advertising has already prompted plenty of controversy in the lead-up to the 2020 presidential election. Specifically, the social network’s announcement that it would allow falsehoods and lies in political ads. This week, a new issue has arisen regarding Facebook and political ads — and it’s one that addresses some of the most bizarre political ads to show up in the 2020 election so far.

More specifically, it deals with Michael Bloomberg’s campaign’s decision to pay a number of influencers to create surreal sponsored content and memes centered around the billionaire currently seeking the Democratic nomination. It’s certainly one of the weirder turns this primary season has taken.

Now, it’s taken an even more bizarre turn with Facebook’s announcement that it doesn’t consider these political ads at all, and won’t classify them as such. At The Verge, Makena Kelly has the details — and some thoughts on their implications.

Sponsored political content will not be placed in Facebook’s political Ad Library unless the creator pays to boost their posts, a Facebook spokesperson confirmed to The Verge. Facebook does not receive any money for sponsored posts unless they are boosted.

This is worrying for a number of reasons, chief among them the fact that most people would classify a piece of content paid for by a candidate’s campaign as, you know, a political ad.

A comment from the Bloomberg campaign indicated that they had endeavored to make the sponsored posts’ nature as such transparent. “We went above and beyond to follow Instagram’s rules and the text of the post clearly shows these are the campaign’s paid ads,” a campaign spokesperson told The Verge.

Still, in an already-heated debate over campaign ads and online spaces, this is sure to raise more questions than it answers — and, depending on how successful Bloomberg is in his bid for the Democratic nomination, it might be something we’re debating all the way through November.

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