No specific federal guidelines
can regulate political ads. It appears that the major online platforms are creating their own rules for what political advertisers can place on their platforms. Facebook and Twitter’s decisions to moderate the content on their platforms have generated debate. In May of 2020, Twitter decided flag tweets from President Trump that violated its rules. President Trump lashed out at the social media platform and this generated volatile conditions for Twitter stock trading
. Political ads drive view
The Trump campaign learned from the 2016 election that spreading mistruths helped drive a divide and energise his base. A bone of contention was an ad placed where President Donald Trump's campaign
showed a video on Facebook that stated the former vice president had promised Ukraine $1bn if the country fired a prosecutor that was investigating Biden’s son.
This led to a clash between Biden's team and many of the social media platforms about how they would handle misleading ads on their platform. The ads are meant to specifically target those who are receptive to these messages and are spread making them a very powerful campaign tool. That puts tech companies in an uncomfortable place between dealing with untrue statements and free expression. In the wake of the 2016 elections where the Russians hacked the Clinton campaign and spread rumors throughout social media has put social media platforms in a position where they need to protect the integrity of the elections.Zuckerberg in the hot seat
Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, said that the company "shouldn't be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online"
. This came in response to Twitter's decision to place fact-check labels on some of Trump's tweets.
To help mitigate some of the issues related to political ads, Facebook announced that the company would help in the voter registration process. Facebook introduced a new Voting Information Center, providing information about registering to vote or requesting an absentee or mail-in ballot.
Facebook is also considering banning political advertising
on its platform in the days leading up to the US presidential election in November.
Facebook has also started to monitor some videos. The company took down a video posted by the campaign of President Trump
, which claimed children were immune to the coronavirus, a violation of the social network’s rules against misinformation. It was the first time Facebook removed a post by Trump’s campaign for spreading misinformation. According to the company, the action they took was not a signal that the company would not allow free expression. It did show that when there is a clear use of misinformation, the company would remove the commentary.The bottom line
Regardless of what Twitter and Facebook say, they will likely be forced ahead of the election to deal with several different types of ads that will likely fall into the ‘grey area’. This will be contested by every campaign, some that are saying that one side is reflecting misleading information and others that say that their freedom of speech is being denied by the social media platform.