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Fact box: How social media services deal with political advertising


(Corrected this January 9 report to remove incorrect references to the dates of previous policy changes in paragraphs 13, 18, 32, and 34.)

FILE PHOTO: Facebook, Google and Twitter logos can be seen in this combination photo from Reuters files. REUTERS / File Photos / File Photo

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – online platforms including Facebook FB.O and Alphabet Inc’s GoogL.O Google is facing increasing pressure to stop running political ads that contain false or misleading claims before the US presidential election.

In the United States, the Communications Act prevents broadcasters from rejecting or censoring advertisements from federal office candidates once they have accepted advertisements for this political race, although this does not apply to cable networks like CNN or to social media sites where leading presidential candidates do spend millions in the run-up to the November 2020 elections to reach out to voters.

Here’s how social media platforms have chosen to deal with false or misleading claims made in political ads:


Facebook is banning politicians from its outside fact-checking program and allowing them to run ads with false claims.

The policy here has been attacked by regulators and lawmakers who say it could spread misinformation and cause voter suppression. Critics, including Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, have also purposely run fake Facebook ads to highlight the issue.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has defended the company’s stance, arguing that it does not want to suppress political speech, but also said the company was considering ways to refine the policy.

Facebook checks the content of political groups for facts. The company also says it will fact-check politicians if they share previously debunked content and don’t allow that content in ads.

The company recently announced that it is making some changes to its approach to political ads, including allowing users to turn off certain ad targeting tools. In addition, more data on advertising target groups will be made publicly available.

The advanced data capabilities for ad audience will be rolled out in the first quarter of this year, and Facebook plans to roll out political ad control in the US early this summer and eventually expand that preference to other locations.

Another change is to give users the option to stop seeing ads based on an advertiser’s custom audience. This applies to all types of advertising, not just political ads.


Twitter Inc TWTR.N has banned political advertising. In November it said it would contain advertisements relating to a political candidate, party, election or law, among other things.

The company also said it won’t allow ads that advocate a particular outcome for political or social reasons.

“We believe the reach of political messages should be earned and not bought,” said Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in a statement.

Some lawmakers praised the ban, but critics said Twitter’s decision would benefit the incumbent and harm lesser-known candidates.

Officials in the Trump campaign, which spends its Democratic rivals on Facebook and Google ads, called the ban “stupid,” but also said it would have little impact on the president’s strategy.

Total political ad spend on Twitter for the 2018 US midterm elections was less than $ 3 million, said Twitter’s CFO Ned Segal.

“From an advertising perspective, Twitter is not a player at all. Facebook and Google are the giants in political advertising, ”said Steve Passwaiter, vice president of the Campaign Media Analysis Group at Kantar Media.


Google announced that it would limit audience targeting for election advertising to age, gender and general location at the zip code level.

The change means that political advertisers will no longer be able to target their ads based on data such as public electoral rolls and general political attitudes such as right-wing, left-wing, or independent. Advertisers can still do contextual targeting, such as: B. Show ads to users who watch a specific video.

Google and its video streaming service YouTube prohibit certain types of misrepresentation in advertisements, e.g.

Google does not have a wholesale ban on politicians who post false or misleading ads. In October, when former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign asked the company to remove a Trump campaign ad that allegedly made false claims, a Google spokeswoman told Reuters that it was not violating the site’s guidelines.


Snap Inc SNAP.N allows political advertising unless the ads are misleading, deceptive, or violate the Snapchat Vanishing News app’s Terms of Use.

The company, which recently partnered with Facebook, Twitter and Google to launch a public database of its political ads, defines political ads as election, advocacy, and themed advertising.

Snap does not generally prohibit “attack” ads, but its policy does not prohibit attacks that target a candidate’s personal life.


The Chinese-owned video app popular with US teenagers does not allow political advertising on the platform.

In a blog post here in October, TikTok said the company wants to make sure the platform continues to feel “lighthearted and disrespectful”.

“We don’t think paid political ads match the experience of the TikTok platform,” wrote Blake Chandlee, vice president of global business solutions at TikTok.

The app, owned by Beijing-based tech giant ByteDance, was recently scrutinized by U.S. lawmakers, who fear the company is censoring politically sensitive content and raising questions about how it stores personal information.


The social network Reddit allows ads on political topics and ads by political candidates at the federal level, but not for state or local elections.

We also do not allow ads on political issues, elections, or candidates outside of the United States.

The company says here that all political advertisements must adhere to its policies that prohibit “deceptive, untrue, or misleading advertising” and “prohibit content that depicts intolerant or overly controversial political or cultural issues or views”.


LinkedIn, owned by Microsoft Corp. MSFT.O, does not allow political advertising. Political advertising is defined here as “advertising that advocates for or against a particular candidate or nomination, or is otherwise intended to influence an election result”.

The search engine Bing, which is also part of Microsoft, does not allow ads with political or election-related content.


Photo sharing site Pinterest Inc PINS.N Also prohibits advertising for political campaigns.

This includes advertising for political candidates, Political Action Committees (PACs), laws or political issues with the intention of influencing an election, as per the website’s advertising guidelines. here

“We want to create a positive, welcoming environment for our pinners, and political campaigning is inherently divisive,” said Pinterest spokeswoman Jamie Favazza, who told Reuters the decision was part of the company’s strategy to combat misinformation.


A spokeswoman for Twitch told Reuters that the live streaming gaming network does not allow political advertising.

The site does not strictly prohibit any themed advertising, but the company is considering whether an ad could be considered “political” upon review, the spokeswoman said.

Twitch, owned by Amazon.com Inc. AMZN.O, is primarily a video game platform, but also has channels focused on sports, music and politics. In the past few months, political candidates like US President Donald Trump and Senator Bernie Sanders have joined the platform ahead of the 2020 elections.

Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford, Katie Paul and Sheila Dang; Adaptation by Sonya Hepinstll


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