Facebook Lets U.S. Users Turn Off Political Ads

Four years ago, Facebook was ground zero for Russian-led interference in the US presidential election. Now, the social network is launching a voting information campaign — “the largest in American history.”

“We’re building a new Voting Information Center that will give millions of people accurate information about voting, while also giving them the tools they need to register and make their voices heard at the ballot box,” Naomi Gleit, Facebook’s VP of product management and social impact, wrote in a blog announcement.

The goal — reiterated by company chief Mark Zuckerberg in a USA Today op-ed — is to register four million voters via Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram (an estimated two million more than it enrolled in 2016 and 2018), and help them get to the polls this November. The 2020 campaign trail was always going to be heated — even before a global pandemic and racial justice movement turned the country (and the world) upside down. And in this internet culture, many people form their opinions and beliefs by scrolling through social media feeds.

“By getting clear, accurate, and authoritative information to people, we reduce the effectiveness of malicious networks that might try to take advantage of uncertainty and interfere with the election,” Gleit said, highlighting the Voting Information Center as a hub of information on registering and requesting an absentee or mail-in ballot.

Facebook is also working with state election officials and “other experts” to provide accurate, timely information in each state as we move through the different election phases, from registration deadlines to early voting to Election Day. Keep an eye out for the Voting Information Center — coming this summer to the top of your Facebook and Instagram timelines.

As Facebook can attest, advertising plays an important role in elections, which is why the platform is now allowing all US to off social issue, electoral, or political ads featuring the “Paid for by” disclaimer. Simply visit the app’s ad settings or pull the plug directly from an ad. Additional steps toward transparency include pinned disclaimers on shared ads and a new Ad Library feature that lets folks track spending for House, Senate, and presidential races.

“I believe Facebook has a responsibility not just to prevent voter suppression — which disproportionately targets people of color — but also to actively support well-informed voter engagement, registration, and turnout,” Zuckerberg said. “In 2016, we were slow to identify foreign interference on our platform. Since then, we’ve built some of the most advanced systems in the world to protect against election interference.

“Ultimately, I believe the best way to hold politicians accountable is through voting,” he continued. “And I believe we should trust voters to make judgments for themselves. That’s why I think we should maintain as open a platform as possible, accompanied by ambitious efforts to boost voter participation.”

So, while Facebook will let you turn off political ads, it won’t stop reminding you to vote.

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