Facebook is reportedly considering a ban on political ads before the US elections this year. Bloomberg reported the news today, saying that the idea will be discussed internally but isn’t yet a company policy. The step would drastically escalate Facebook’s current plans for preventing misinformation or meddling in the 2020 elections.
There’s not much detail about the policy, but based on Bloomberg’s report, the blackout could be brief — a matter of a few short days before election day in November. Facebook has previously allowed users to “turn off” political ads and added disclosure requirements, and it’s attempting to provide reliable information with a voting hub. But it’s stopped in short supply of banning the ads themselves, in contrast having its rival Twitter, which announced a political ad ban last year.
Bloomberg writes that there are concerns about hampering “get out the vote” efforts or restricting how a candidate could react to breaking news.
However, a ban would also protect Facebook from bad publicity from inflammatory ads — just like a Trump ad that it removed as a result of Nazi imagery. For Facebook critics who argue the website promotes polarization and manipulation, a temporary blackout can also be considered an easy method of limiting its effects in the immediate lead-up to the election.