Despite escalating pressure ahead of the 2020 presidential election, Facebook reaffirmed its freewheeling policy on political ads Thursday, saying it won’t ban them, won’t fact-check them and won’t limit how they can be targeted to specific groups of people. Instead, Facebook said it will offer users slightly more control over how many political ads they see and make its online library of political ads easier to browse. These steps appear unlikely to assuage critics—including politicians, activists, tech competitors, and some of the company's own rank-and-file employees—who say that Facebook has too much power and that social media is warping democracy and undermining elections, the AP reports. And Facebook’s stance stands in contrast to what its rivals are doing. Google has decided to limit targeting of political ads, while Twitter is banning them outright.
"Today’s announcement is more window dressing around their decision to allow paid misinformation," says Bill Russo, a campaign spokesman for Joe Biden. Facebook has repeatedly insisted it won't fact-check political ads. Critics say that stance gives politicians a license to lie. Facebook said in a blog post Thursday that it considered limiting microtargeting for political ads. But it said it learned about the importance of such practices for reaching "key audiences” after talking with political campaigns from both major parties in the US political groups, and nonprofits. Facebook also called for government regulation of political ads, saying private companies should not be the ones to make rules about them. (Facebook announced a ban on "deepfake" videos this week.)