Facebook May Ban Political Ads Ahead of Election: Report

Facebook Inc., officials are discussing whether to ban political advertising in the period immediately prior to the November election, according to a published report Friday.

The move, which would represent a sharp turnabout for the company, comes as Facebook faces increasing discontent with many of its content policies.

A political ad halt might help prevent false information from spreading easily in the days and hours before the election, Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the company’s thinking.

However, some critics argue that such a ban could hurt efforts to get out the vote and campaigns’ ability to counter false charges made in other media, according to the report.

Then-candidate Donald Trump leveraged Facebook ads and targeting tools to aim messages at very specific groups to help boost his support in the 2016 election. At the same time, Russian operatives used the platform to amplify misinformation and divisive messages, the report noted.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has famously refused to engage in fact-checking of political advertising on the platform, arguing that “in a democracy, I don’t think it’s right for private companies to censor politicians or the news.”

Twitter stopped taking political ads altogether last year.

Facebook is also in the middle of a boycott by many advertisers who have joined the “Stop Hate For Profit” campaign arising from the Black Lives Matter protests earlier this summer. The campaign charges that Facebook has allowed incitement to violence against protesters seeking racial justice, as well as giving official status to publications tied to white nationalists.

Shares of Facebook closed at a record high Friday, rising 57 cents, or 0.23%, to $245.07.

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