SAN FRANCISCO – Facebook announced Wednesday that it intends to lift the ban on political advertising on its network and resume a form of digital advertising that has been criticized for spreading misinformation, falsehoods and voter inflammation.

The social network said it would allow advertisers to purchase new ads on “social issues, elections or politics” starting Thursday. This is evident from a copy of an email sent to political advertisers and viewed by the New York Times. These advertisers are required to perform a series of identity checks before they are allowed to serve the ads, according to the company.

“We introduced this temporary post-election ban in November 2020 to avoid confusion or abuse after election day,” Facebook said in one blog entry. “We heard a lot of feedback and learned more about political ads and campaigns during this election cycle. For this reason, we plan to use the coming months to take a closer look at how these ads work in our service and to determine where further changes are appropriate. “

Political advertising on Facebook has long been faced with questions. Mark Zuckerberg, the executive director of Facebook, said he wanted to maintain a largely straightforward attitude towards the speech on the site – including political advertisements – unless it would pose direct harm to the public or individuals, saying that he ” does not want the arbiter of truth. “

After the 2016 presidential election, the company and intelligence officials discovered this Russians had used Facebook ads To sow discontent among Americans. Former President Donald J. Trump also used Facebook’s political ads among other things, to reinforce the allegations of an “invasion” on the Mexican border in 2019.

Facebook banned political ads late last year to stave off misinformation and threats of violence related to the November presidential election. In September the company said It was planned to ban new political ads for the week leading up to election day and would take quick action against posts trying to dissuade people from voting. Then in October Facebook extended this action the declaration would ban all political and thematic advertising after the polls were closed for an indefinite period on November 3rd.

The company eventually limited itself to groups and sites that were spreading certain types of misinformation, such as: B. Prevent people from voting or registering to vote. It has spent billions of dollars eradicating foreign influence campaigns and other forms of interference from malicious government agencies and other bad actors.

In December Facebook lifted the ban to allow some advertisers Place ads for political issues and candidacies in Georgia for the January runoff election in the state. Otherwise, the ban remained in force for the remaining 49 states.

Attitudes towards how political advertising should be treated on Facebook are decidedly mixed. Unknown politicians can often use Facebook to raise their profile and awareness of their campaigns.

“Political ads aren’t bad things in and of themselves,” said Siva Vaidhyanathan, professor of media studies and author of a Book on the Impact of Facebook on democracy. “They do an essential service by directly representing the concerns or positions of the candidate.”

He added, “When you ban all campaign ads on the most accessible, affordable platform out there, you tend the balance towards the candidates who can afford radio and television.”

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, also said that political advertising can be on Facebook a crucial component for democratic digital campaign strategies.

Some political ad buyers welcomed the lifting of the ad ban.

“The advertising ban was something that Facebook did to appease the public for the misinformation being spread on the platform,” said Eileen Pollet, digital campaign strategist and founder of Ravenna Strategies. “But it hurt really good actors, while bad actors had a completely free hand. And now, especially since the elections were over, the ban has really hurt nonprofits and local organizations. “

Facebook has long tried to pull the needle between a forceful moderation of its guidelines and a lighter touch. For years, Mr Zuckerberg defended politicians’ right to say what they wanted on Facebook, but that changed last year amid mounting concerns about possible violence related to the November elections.

In January, Facebook has banned Mr. Trump from using his account and posting it on the platform after reporting on social media to de-legitimize the election results and sparking a violent uprising among his supporters that stormed the U.S. Capitol.

Facebook said Mr. Trump’s suspension was “indefinite”. The decision is currently under scrutiny by the Facebook Oversight Board, a third-party company founded by the company made up of journalists, academics, and others that will make some of the delicate decisions about enforcing the company’s content policies. A decision is expected to be made in the next few months.

On Thursday, political advertisers on Facebook can submit new ads or activate existing political ads that have already been approved. Each ad comes with a small disclaimer stating that it was “paid for” by a political organization. For those buying new ads, it can take up to a week to complete the identity authorization and ad review process, according to Facebook.

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