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Facebook and Google extend bans on political advertising

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Google plans to continue banning political ads on its platforms in the next few weeks to avoid confusion about election results, according to people familiar with the matter and an email verified by the Wall Street Journal.

Facebook told advertisers in an email on Wednesday that it plans to continue its political advertising ban for “another month” after the election. Google representatives have told some advertisers that the ban is unlikely to be lifted in November or December, people said.

“Although several sources have forecast a presidential winner, we still believe it is important to prevent confusion or abuse on our platform,” said the email sent by Facebook on Wednesday.

The tech companies initially said the bans would last a week after election day but could be extended.

The Associated Press and other major media outlets announced on Saturday that Joe Biden won the presidential election. President Donald Trump has yet to give in on allegations of election fraud, but his campaign has found no evidence of widespread irregularities.

The extended advertising bans come as Georgia prepares for two Senate runoffs on Jan. 5. These races will likely determine which party controls the US Senate and whether President-elect Biden will have a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress at the start of his administration.

As text messages, digital ads and social media embed themselves deeper and deeper into our pandemic days and our lives, an unprecedented amount of political misinformation and disinformation threatens to disrupt the 2020 elections. Illustration: Preston Jessee for The Wall Street Journal (originally published October 2)

Facebook informed advertisers that it will continue to “temporarily pause” all social, election, or political ads in the US for another month, although the restriction may be lifted sooner.

Facebook said in an updated company blog post on Wednesday that the temporary pause for political ads will continue “as part of our ongoing efforts to protect the elections.” A Google spokeswoman said the company had no further information.

Republicans and Democrats have said these political advertising bans favor incumbents or those with larger social media followers because they can post messages from their own accounts or pages rather than relying on advertising.

In a runoff election, Republican Senator David Perdue, a former chairman of the Dollar General Corp., faces Democrat Jon Ossoff, a documentary filmmaker who has never held political office. In the other, the Democrat Raphael Warnock, pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church of the late Dr. Martin Luther King in Atlanta, ousting Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler. Ms. Loeffler is a businesswoman appointed by Georgia’s Republican Governor Brian Kemp last year.

Representatives from Messrs. Warnock and Ossoff’s campaigns said there should be an exception to the Georgia runoff so that they can run ads on the digital platforms explaining how people register to vote, register for absentee voting, and ensure their vote count can.

A spokeswoman for Mr Perdue said the decision affected the ability of campaigns to “share critical information with voters”. A spokesman for Ms. Loeffler did not respond to a request for comment.

“Organic disinformation is the real problem on these platforms, and the continued ban on advertising is now actively detrimental to organizations working to educate Georgia’s diverse voters about the January runoff,” said Scott Fairchild, executive director of the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee, in an explanation.

A spokesman for the Senate National Republican Committee said, “The lack of transparency about when ads will resume, and when to do it, couldn’t be worse.”

A political advertising advisor who works for one of the Republican campaigns in Georgia said the bans were frustrating but also encouraged campaigns to use other channels, such as:

Write to Emily Glazer at emily.glazer@wsj.com

Copyright © 2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

Published in the print edition of November 12, 2020 as “Facebook, Google maintains the ban on political ads”.

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