Facebook said on Tuesday it would allow certain advertisers to run ads on political issues and candidacies in Georgia, a change from its recent ban on political ads in the United States and just weeks before a run-off election in the state could decide the future Senate.
As of Wednesday morning, Facebook said it would allow authorized advertisers to buy and serve political ads targeting people in Georgia. Only those persons previously authorized to serve such advertisements on the platform will be authorized, a process which involves identity verification and other security measures. Facebook’s ban on political ads will otherwise remain in effect for the remaining 49 states.
Georgia is the home of two consecutive Senate second-round elections. Two Democratic candidates, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, are fighting against two Republican incumbents, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. The results will determine which party controls the Senate when President-elect Joseph R. Biden takes office next year.
“In recent weeks, we have heard comments from experts and announcers from all political backgrounds on the importance of speaking out and using our tools to reach voters ahead of the second round of elections in Georgia,” Sarah Schiff, Facebook product manager in charge of political advertising, said in a corporate blog post on the change. “We agree that our advertising tools are an important way for people to get information about these elections.”
The move follows months of controversy over political advertising on Facebook, which critics say helps spread disinformation. Over the past few years, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said he wants to maintain a largely hands-off stance on speech on the site unless it causes immediate harm to the public or to others. individuals, claiming that he “doesn’t want to be the arbiter of truth.
But ahead of the November 3 presidential election, Facebook took steps to contain disinformation. This included stopping new ad purchases the week before election day and pausing all political advertising in the United States after the polls closed. The company said the ban on political ads was temporary, but did not say when those ads might resume.
Facebook said it plans to slowly scale up the advertising program in Georgia, starting with those leading political campaigns in the state, as well as state and local election officials and national and national political parties. The company added that it would reject political advertising that is targeted outside Georgia or that does not concern the upcoming run-off election.
Google, which put more than five million ads referring to the presidential election to sleep after the polls closed, said last week it was changing that policy and allowing advertisers to resume running election-related ads “as long as they follow our global advertising rules.”