Hawley: Facebook Should Reverse Political Ad Ban

Facebook chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg
(Image credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) has called on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to reverse its decision not to accept new political advertising in the week before the November election.

Facebook announced the ad ban earlier this month.

"We're going to block new political and issue ads during the final week of the campaign," Zuckerberg said at the time. "It's important that campaigns can run get out the vote campaigns, and I generally believe the best antidote to bad speech is more speech, but in the final days of an election there may not be enough time to contest new claims. So in the week before the election, we won't accept new political or issue ads," he said. "Advertisers will be able to continue running ads they started running before the final week and adjust the targeting for those ads, but those ads will already be published transparently in our Ads Library so anyone, including fact-checkers and journalists, can scrutinize them."

But Hawley argues that the ban could suppress voter turnout and result in an overly broad blackout of ads related to social issues.

"In a culture in which virtually every issue—from knitting and yoga to sushi and young-adult fiction—has become aggressively politicized, any topic can be deemed ‘sensitive’ in the right context," he wrote Zuckerberg. "Given Facebook’s sweeping powers to shape the news and information that Americans receive, clarity on Facebook’s understanding of these terms is critical.”

Hawley wants an answer by Sept. 23 to the question of how Facebook is defining a political or issue ad and whether "news or opinion outlets will be allowed to promote stories related to the election, and whether advocacy groups like Planned Parenthood or NARAL will be permitted to advertise on Facebook during the blackout."

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.