Facebook to ban new political ads in week before presidential election

Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies at a House Financial Services Committee hearing examining the company’s plan to launch a digital currency on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., October 23, 2019.
Erin Scott | Reuters

Facebook announced Thursday it will ban new political ads from running in the week before the Nov. 3 presidential election.

The action is narrow, banning only political ads submitted in the week before the election but still allowing those submitted before Oct. 27.

In addition to the new restriction, Facebook said it will link any post from a candidate attempting to declare victory before the final results are in to vote counts from Reuters and the National Election Pool.

Until now, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been adamant about allowing political ads on Facebook and Instagram, even if candidates use those ads to lie or spread misinformation. Other social media companies, including Twitter and Pinterest, have already banned political ads on their services.

Facebook also said it would take down posts on the social network that attempt to discourage people from voting by claiming they’ll catch Covid-19 if they go to the polls. For other posts that “might use Covid-19 to discourage voting,” Facebook said it would attach a link to “authoritative information” about the pandemic. In a post to his Facebook page Thursday, Zuckerberg said the company will block ads that use the coronavirus pandemic to discourage voting.

In short, user-submitted posts using Covid-19 to discourage voting will still be allowed on Facebook, unless they explicitly say you’ll catch Covid-19 by voting. But people won’t be able to pay Facebook for ads to spread the message.

Posts that attempt to deligitimize the results of the election or legal voting methods, such as voting by mail, will still be allowed but will be labeled with more information about voting, Zuckerberg said.

He also said Facebook will expand its policies to prevent posts that call for violence or harm to election officials.

“I believe our democracy is strong enough to withstand this challenge and deliver a free and fair election — even if it takes time for every vote to be counted,” Zuckerberg wrote in his Facebook post. “We’ve voted during global pandemics before. We can do this. But it’s going to take a concerted effort by all of us — political parties and candidates, election authorities, the media and social networks, and ultimately voters as well — to live up to our responsibilities.”

Correction: The headline of this story was updated to reflect the ban only affects new political ads submitted in the week before the presidential election.