Dems Press Facebook's Zuckerberg on Insurrection-Targeted Ads

Facebook sign at HQ
(Image credit: Facebook)

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg continues to be a popular pen pal for legislators concerned about its treatment of ad and web content.

In a letter Monday (March 8), more than two dozen House Energy & Commerce Committee Democrats called on him for some answers about the social media giant's ad practices after reports showed it had promoted "violence and disinformation both before and after the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection."

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They pointed to reports that Facebook ran ads for gun accessories and protective equipment alongside content that "amplified election misinformation" as well as news about the insurrection. "Targeting ads in this way is dangerous and has the potential to encourage acts of violence,” they wrote. 

They conceded that Facebook had temporarily banned ads that promoted weapons' accessories and protective equipment but said it needed to do more. 

“With more than 100 million daily Facebook users in the United States, it is paramount that Facebook take responsibility for where it places advertisements and what those advertisements promote,” they told Zuckerberg. “Furthermore, Facebook should inform advertisers about surrounding content, and make the necessary changes to guarantee that Facebook and companies’ ad dollars are not further supporting or sowing seeds of hate and distrust throughout the country.”

To help Zuckerberg with the "more" he needs to do, the legislators wanted answers to the following questions:

  • "What steps does Facebook plan to take to ensure that advertisements for weapons or other tactical military equipment are not targeted in a manner that jeopardizes public safety?
  • "What procedures and processes does Facebook have in place for reviewing the audience of these types of advertisements?
  • "Does Facebook have dedicated staff to monitor and approve the targeting of advertisements for weapons or military equipment on its platform?
  • "Are companies whose advertisements appear on Facebook aware or notified that their ads are being placed next to content that includes misinformation, disinformation, violence, hate speech, or voter suppression?
  • "Have any companies expressed concerns regarding the placement of their advertisements next to content that includes misinformation, disinformation, violence, hate speech, or voter suppression."

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Signing the letter were House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.), and Reps. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), Anna Eshoo (D-Calif,), Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), Marc Veasey (D-Tex.), Robin Kelly (D-Ill.), Donald McEachin (D-Va.), Lisa Blunt-Rochester (D-Del.), Darren Soto (D-Fla.), Kathleen M. Rice (D-N.Y.), Angie Craig (D-Minn.), Lori Trahan (D-Mass.), and Lizzie Fletcher (D-Texas).

Some of the same legislators fired off a letter to Zuckerberg two weeks ago on a similar subject, seeking answers to questions about the insurrection and disinformation, also based on a news reports.

John Eggerton

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.