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Is Big Tech the Real Winner of the US Presidential Election? | Social media

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The campaigns for President Donald Trump and Joe Biden spent a total of $ 192.3 million on Facebook advertising in the first 10 months of 2020, of which in October alone, according to data from Facebook Inc.

Each party’s presidential campaigns more than doubled their social media ad spend compared to presidential candidates in the 2016 race when experts agreed that Trump outmaneuvered Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton online.

Biden spent slightly more on Facebook than Trump this year at $ 99.8 million, compared to $ 92.5 million, despite the president investing more in Google by Alphabet Inc., where the two campaigns have been together since May 2018 Spent $ 215.5 million on ads on Google. Most of those issues came on YouTube, including a wave of Trump ads on the video page home page this week.

But even with candidates pouring tens of millions of dollars into advertising on the platforms, there is widespread dissatisfaction with both the rules companies put in place in relation to the elections and the way they enforced them. Case in point is a policy Facebook announced in September to ban new political ads in the week leading up to the election.

The ban did not prevent campaigns from running ads during this period, only from launching new ads that could introduce misleading messages in the final days of the campaign. Gautam Hans, a professor at Vanderbilt Law School who focused on the First Amendment, lost the logic of the move. “If we are concerned about political ads and their impact on the vote, the vote is in full swing,” he said, noting the wave of early voting that began before the moratorium went into effect.

There were also problems with the execution. Facebook blocked thousands of ads and cited “a number of unexpected issues affecting the campaigns of both political parties”. The Biden campaign was affected even though it posted the ads before the deadline. The campaign said the glitch, which Facebook attributed to a technical glitch, likely cost them over $ 500,000 in donations. The company said it was unable to resolve issues with some of the ads and is unlikely to be able to do so during the restricted period. Rob Flaherty, Biden’s digital director, said the incident “made it largely clear that Facebook was completely unprepared to tackle this election despite having four years to prepare”.

The Trump campaign was also affected by the breakdown. The campaign had tried to circumvent the policy the day before the ban went into effect by running a limited number of new ads. Those advertisements had language such as “Vote Today!” and “Election Day is today,” presumably with the intention of promoting them more, if those statements actually made sense.

Facebook blocked the ads, citing a policy banning paid messages that mislead people about the election process. But it allowed other ads claiming record economic growth in the US days before the statistics were actually released. Samantha Zager, a spokeswoman for Trump’s campaign, accused Facebook of setting up rules and enforcing them selectively because the company was working “against President Trump”.

Daniel Kreiss, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina who tracks political communications, said the platforms failed to create predictable guard rails for political actors. “We are still seeing far too many uneven enforcement policies and far too many changes to that policy months or weeks before a presidential election,” he said, adding that Facebook’s performance has been particularly poor. “I am always amazed that a company with so many billions of dollars in market capitalization cannot do that.”

Facebook, Google, and Twitter Inc. were all at the center of a political firestorm for their handling of the 2016 election. The following year, federal lawmakers made a high-profile push to create new rules for online political advertising, but it failed Platforms could develop protective measures themselves. All three companies created databases that people could use to track policy issues and began developing other policies.

Last October, Twitter announced that it would completely ban political advertising. Facebook and Google are also considered bans, at least for the last days or weeks before an election. Sridhar Ramaswamy, a Google executive who ran his promotional activities until 2018, said he was an internal advocate for stopping political ads altogether. Google also considered a pre-election moratorium on political ads on the homepage of YouTube, one of the most expensive properties on the internet. Instead, it sold the space to the Trump campaign, Bloomberg reported in February.

Shirin Raza, former YouTube attorney, believes Trump’s ads were particularly damaging to the democratic process, saying the company itself bears part of the responsibility. “They say they care about the integrity of the elections. They say they care about Covid misinformation. But they continue to raise someone who violates those two principles, ”she said. “Doesn’t that make you complicit?”

A Google spokeswoman said she welcomes ads from all political advertisers as long as they adhere to the company’s guidelines. It has limited the targeting of election advertising and prevented campaigns from mixing public voter data with information such as search queries, web browsing, and YouTube ad history. Facebook hasn’t curtailed targeting and has also angered the Democrats with its policy of fact-checking political ads. (Republicans subsequently attacked the company every time it labeled misleading posts from President Trump.) Both companies have announced that they will stop allowing political advertisements in the days following the election in an attempt to contain attempts to put people over confuse the result of the vote.

Not everyone who is skeptical of the way social media companies deal with political advertising has supported restrictions on addressing target groups or complete bans. Campaigners have expressed concern that targeting restrictions make it harder for them to get ads that are tailored to their voters. Some campaigns felt that the restrictions on targeting were keeping them from the kind of granular message on Facebook and Google that worked so well in 2016. a political advertising agency.

Some people who study political speech also say that banning political advertising would undermine the electoral process. “I think political advertising is important,” said Kreiss of the UNC. “Most of the ads are mobilizing – how else do you get people to vote?”

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