Facebook Runs Ads for Trump Despite Suspension
June 28, 2021
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by Snigdh Baunthiyal

Former US President Donald Trump lost his presidency this year and the ability to post on Facebook as well. Despite the suspension which is supposed to last till 2023, Facebook has allowed his Political Action Committee ‘Save America’ to post ads promoting an upcoming event. Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone has said “President Trump is suspended from Facebook, so he can’t post at all. Groups affiliated with the former president are not barred from posting on Facebook, so long as they are not posting in his voice”

Trump had launched a blog on his website, named “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump” after being suspended from Facebook and Twitter. The blog was shut after 29 days. While there were rumours that it was done because of poor readership, Trump’s senior aide hinted it was done because the former President will soon be joining another social media platform.

What are the rules of engagement for Facebook?

Facebook has said that the ads can run as long as they don’t have the URL to Trump’s website where there is more information about the posted events. Save America has an official Facebook page that runs in support of the former President. Facebook has been criticized for its perceived lack of policies to prevent political parties from advertising heavily and using the site to promote their ideas without any regulation. This latest circumvention by Trump’s team on Facebook has come under heavy criticism.

Why the ban

Facebook had suspended Trump’s account after the Jan 6 attack on Capitol Hill in Washington. There have been multiple calls for removing Trump from social media websites to prevent the former President from spreading misinformation multiple times. Trump’s account on Twitter has also been permanently suspended this year after the Capitol attack.
Multiple reports found that misinformation about the US election fell drastically by 73% after Tump’s suspension on social media.

 Trump insisted that the US election was rigged because of mail-in ballots and that he instead ‘won big.’ His tweets would normally go viral and led to the birth of multiple conspiracy theories on QAnon.

On Jan 6, a mob of Trump supporters forcibly entered the Capitol complex in Washington DC and tried to disrupt a session to formalise President Joe Biden’s electoral victory.

Donald Trump was blamed for encouraging the rioters by constantly falsely claiming that he had won the election. Trump was impeached a week after the riot. He is the first US President to have been impeached twice.

Political advertising in social media

The social media company has been accused time and again of being extremely lax with its political ad policies. While the company’s original ad policy prohibited misinformation and defined it as “ads that include claims debunked by third-party fact-checkers or, in certain circumstances, claims debunked by organizations with particular expertise”, in its revised policy in 2020, Facebook decided to exempt political figures from the misinformation guideline. The guideline which prohibits organisation from spreading lies.

Instead, the onus is put on the consumer. If you want to make sure you do not see political ads which might or might not be presenting facts then you need to make the changes to your settings. Facebook also used targeted ads, which is a tool employed by almost everyone advertising on Facebook. Facebook’s employees have even written to Mark Zuckerberg expressing concern about the way political ads are managed on the platform.

Recent changes in ad policy

Facebook recently announced an ‘ad authorisation process’ for political ads about elections or politics in South Africa, Norway or Zambia. There have been separate directives for ads coming in from Myanmar and Australia as well.

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