Facebook, Twitter, and Google Control What Political Ads You See


Major social media platforms have written guidelines for advertisements that they will approve for audiences.

With the absence of federal guidelines, the task has been left to Facebook, Google, and Twitter to determine if a political advertisement can be viewed by users of these platforms, according to the Wall Street Journal.

With the 2020 election season beginning, political advertisements will see a massive influx of billions of dollars advocating for their candidate or cause. Each platform has different guidelines. Recently, Twitter flagged tweets posted by President Trump while Facebook left them unharmed.

In 2019, Facebook, Google, and Twitter updated their ad policies and set the guidelines for political advertisements, who can purchase them, and what they can say. These companies enforce these guidelines by using a mix of automated and human review. The following are cases where the platforms have allowed advertisements to be displayed and accepted money for this service, even if they were eventually removed.

All three platforms removed content regarding conspiracy theories in a documentary called "Plandemic." The content was labeled as false by PolitiFact and FactCheck.org, but Facebook still accepted money from multiple groups that advertised the clips before removing them.

Elizabeth Warren's presidential campaign bought a Facebook ad stating CEO Mark Zuckerburg endorsed President Trump's re-election, even though the ad was false. CatholicVote tracked users who attended Catholic church services and used the data to compile a list of voters to target with advertisements against former Missouri senator Claire McCaskill. CatholicVote stated that this technique was more successful, but the campaign manager that the political ad supported stated he was unaware of the practice.

Facebook would allow this advertisement, while Twitter and Google would block it. Facebook allows political ads:

  • about, bought by or on behalf of a current or former candidate for public office, a political figure, or a political party
  • about any election, referendum or ballot initiative
  • about "social issues"

Twitter allows "cause-based ads" but bans ads or promoted tweets

  • about a candidate, political party, elected or appointed government official, election, referendum, ballot measure, legislation, regulation, directive or judicial outcome
  • made by a candidate, political party, elected or appointed government official, PAC, super PAC, 501c4

Google allows ads

  • about or bought by current officeholders or candidates for an elected federal or state office
  • about or bought by a federal or state political party
  • about a state ballot measure

These massive social media companies are controlling what we see based on what they feel is right.

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