Some Facebook critics were hardly reassured by its announcement Thursday (Sept. 3) that it would not run new political or issue ads in the week before the November election, branding it a PR stunt and essentially a nothing burger.
Women's group Ultraviolet minced no words, calling Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg a "menace to democracy."
Of the announced political ad moratorium, which Zuckerberg announced in a Facebook post, the group suggested that a week before election day is effectively a non sequitur.
Related: Facebook Won't Run New Political Ads Week Before Election
“Voting starts in North Carolina tomorrow," pointed out Ultraviolet executive director Shaunna Thomas. "Election Day isn’t in two months, it’s tomorrow and every day after, which means voters in that state and many others that vote early will be subject to months of dishonest ads on Facebook’s platform. For women and people of color running for office, these months of unchecked, untrue racist and sexist attacks are especially damaging."
“If Facebook were serious about stopping the threats of disinformation and election interference it would be fact-checking and removing political ads, in addition to intentionally deceptive posts, that proliferate across the platform," Thomas said. "Because the real truth that Facebook refuses to acknowledge is that ads are just a small part of the massive problem at Facebook."
Liberal watchdog group Media Matters for America was equally unimpressed.
“Facebook’s new ad policy announcement is designed to fool the media and the public into thinking the company is taking disinformation seriously," said the group's president, Angelo Carusone. "[T]his new policy is pointless - and may even do more harm than good. Makes no mistake - you can still spread misinformation with political ads on Facebook, you just can’t do it with NEW ads just ONE week before Election Day. According to this new policy, political ads that have at least one impression prior to Oct. 27th, can be rerun and re-targeted to new groups during the week of Election Day.
“Facebook’s policy will only further empower those seeking to do harm, while weakening the ability of outside forces to counteract attacks and misinformation, something that has proven necessary given Facebook’s weak enforcement."
Back in June, and under pressure from Washington, civil rights groups, advertisers and others, Facebook announced it is going to start moderating political content more closely, but Zuckerberg and Facebook have been reluctant to take down political speech.
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Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.