Amid the upcoming US General Elections, Facebook finds itself besieged with rampant political controversies through political ads run on its platform. What is especially noteworthy is the stake and return involved in the gamble.
Facebook’s policies aren’t just for political ads and campaigns. The senator of Massachusetts and Democratic Presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren’s campaign ran a ‘fake ad’ on the social network taking a dig on network’s policies.
Elizabeth Warren’s ad explicitly states that Facebook is endorsing President Donald Trump in the 2020 U.S. election campaign.
The fundamental aim of the ad was to highlight Facebook’s inability to monitor the information spread through its platform. The ad cited that Facebook was ineffective as a gatekeeper of a broadcasting platform with an enormous reach capacity.
Facebook changed their ads policy to allow politicians to run ads with known lies—explicitly turning the platform into a disinformation-for-profit machine. This week, we decided to see just how far it goes.— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) October 12, 2019
Facebook took to a highly quirky avenue to respond. It tweeted Warren by name and compared itself to a broadcaster who is obliged by law to run political ads. The tweet also cited Federal Communications Commission rules as a medium to justify itself.
Is Facebook’s stand justified?
Understandably so, broadcasters are obliged to give reasonable access to federal candidates to air their political ads. It is just one of their many requirements to maintain public interests.
They have fiduciary obligations not just to shareholders but to the public on account of their control over information flow. However, Facebook has rapidly failed to establish neutrality among candidates.
Zuckerberg’s company has failed to keep a lid on those who smudge their opponents and amplify senseless conspiracies.
Moreover, its algorithms ensure the circulation of such conspiracies by benefitting the incendiary over the informative for further engagement.
Facebook’s revenue through ‘Political Ads’
The revenue that Facebook generates through Political ads isn’t worth a lot but still worthy of significance in the argument. Facebook’s revenue from Political Ads is barely 1% of the revenue forecast by the Social Media conglomerate. The $525 billion company was able to rake $136 million from 13 July to 10 October.
Political Ads count for roughly 1% of the $17.1 billion analysts forecast in ad sales for Facebook in the third quarter.
Today, Facebook’s reach is far more than any other media publication. The United States experienced the Facebook effect in the General Elections of 2016 and 2012 as well. In the 2012 elections, the country witnessed a huge rise in the number of voters due to Facebook’s “I Voted” button.
The GOTV (get-out-the-vote) campaign by the Social Media giant helped increase the number of youth voters significantly. In June 2014, Harvard Law scholar Jonathan Zittrain wrote an essay in the New Republic called, ‘Facebook Could Decide an Election Without Anyone Ever Finding Out’. In the piece, he called attention to the possibility of Facebook selectively depressing voter turnout.
Research shows that a small design change by Facebook could have electoral repercussions.
America’s electoral-college format has some states that have a disproportionate impact on the national outcome. Amid the pro-liberal effect that Facebook implies, it becomes enshrined as an axiom of how campaign staffers, reporters, and other people view social media.
These reports are undoubtedly sufficing to comprehend the influence value of Facebook on political elections. In such a scenario, if Facebook doesn’t monitor the information flow and allows baseless conspiracies to run, then it could soon begin to lose its grasp over the audience.
Does Facebook cling towards the Powerful?
Facebook has a thing for substantial Powerholders, like the President of the United States. The US presidential campaign has begun and yet courage is nowhere to be found from Facebook.
For the last few weeks, the Facebook has seen itself involved in a scandal over its inexplicable policies on political misinformation.
The controversy was triggered by Facebook executive Nick Clegg. He revealed in a speech that politicians are exempt from the company’s third-party fact-checking program. The revelation garnered immense criticism. Meanwhile, the US President is actively promoting his campaign and also smearing a Democratic rival through wild accusations.
The rival and former Vice-president Joe Bidden asked Facebook to remove the ad which was turned down. Donald Trump has already spent around $1.3 million to $3.8 million in the current campaign on Facebook.
Up to the task of Fair Politics?
Facebook recently sharpened its rules and policies for political ads ahead of General Elections of 2020. The advertisers now require to supply more information about their organization. This includes their U.S. street address, phone number, business email and a business website matching the email. The information is mandatory now before Facebook reviews and approves any political advertising. Consequently, the information will also become a part of Facebook’s public ad library.
Facebook has come under fire recently for its ad policy, which considers politicians’ claims as “ineligible” for third-party fact checking. In keeping with that policy, FB has allowed a Trump campaign ad making false claims about Biden’s ties to Ukraine to remain on the platform.— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) October 14, 2019
Moreover, advertisers must also provide a Tax ID number, Federal Election Commission (FEC) ID number, or a government website domain that matches an email ending in .gov or .mil, if they want to be labeled as a “Confirmed Organization”.
Organizations and groups that do not meet the standards by mid-October will have their ads blocked until full compliance.