Facebook announced that it will now let users turn off political ads, both on Facebook and Instagram, which the company also owns.
We’re still about five months from the November 2020 election, so for those of us who are already tired of seeing all the political advertisements as we scroll through our social media streams, this is a welcome change. But it’s not the only shift from the social media company — Facebook also says it’s going to improve election information visibility and voter involvement.
In an op-ed in USA Today on June 17, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg outlined what he called the company’s “civic duties.” First, Facebook has set a goal to help 4 million more people register to vote. To help meet this goal, Facebook and Instagram will both have a Voting Information Center where users can access information about voter registration and early voting from their local and state officials.
Second, Zuckerberg said Facebook is working to protect the election’s integrity — especially after the platform allowed foreign agencies to post thousands of pieces of content to influence Americans during the 2016 election.
“In 2016, we were slow to identify foreign interference on our platform,” Zuckerberg wrote in the op-ed. “Since then, we’ve built some of the most advanced systems in the world to protect against election interference — investing billions of dollars in technology and hiring tens of thousands of people to work on safety and security. We’ve learned from this experience and have protected against interference in more than 200 elections around the world.”
Though his company is now letting users turn off political ads, Zuckerberg continues to support running all political ads, even as the company has come under fire for letting politicians run ads that make false claims. This stands in opposition to Twitter’s policy, which bans candidate ads and applies tight restrictions on issue advertisements.
Zuckerberg defended the policy in his op-ed. “Ultimately, I believe the best way to hold politicians accountable is through voting, 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.”
In November, Business Insider reported that advertisers had bought more than $887 million on political ads on Facebook since May 2018, when Facebook started tracking this type of revenue.
How To Turn Off Political Ads On Facebook And Instagram
Facebook started rolling out this option on June 16, and it will let people turn off “all social issue, electoral or political ads from candidates, Super PACs or other organizations that have the ‘Paid for by’ political disclaimer on them,” said Naomi Gleit, Facebook’s vice president of product management and social impact in a statement.
There are two ways to axe those ads on Facebook. One is by going to the menu option, then Settings, then Ad Preferences > Ad Topics. Then, select “See fewer ads about this topic.”
The second is to tap the Confirmed Organization when you see a “paid by” political ad on Facebook, then select “See fewer ads about this topic.”
Likewise, Instagram will also let you shut off those ads via your settings or directly through a “paid for by” ad.