Recent stories have made clear that Facebook completely botched its political ads ban rollout. With nearly 100 million people casting early votes and Election Day two days away, this is a complete calamity. This week, Color Of Change PAC, Priorities USA and other progressive campaigns confirmed that they were unable to run thousands of GOTV ads in battlegrounds despite Facebook saying the “bug” that was blocking them was fixed on Tuesday.
Having multi-day “bugs” a week out from Election Day that block candidates and campaigns from getting their ads out to voters is inexcusable, and Facebook’s lack of communication about how things went wrong is beyond disappointing. In an election where the stakes for our communities are life and death, Facebook’s failure to effectively manage its platform is not just a dereliction of duty, but a colossal affront to our democracy.
It did not have to be this way. Facebook had four years to come up with a robust plan of action ahead of this election, and instead they continue to rely on ad hoc, press-driven policy making that no one asked for.
We have issued numerous warnings to Facebook and other tech companies about the prominence of disinformation on social media platforms throughout this entire election. Moreover, we know Black voters are primary targets for misinformation campaigns that skew or ignore verifiable facts. Black voters in our country have been subject to increasingly aggressive campaigns of voter suppression, disenfranchisement, and misinformation on social media and at the ballot box. In fact, the admitted strategies of the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee in 2016 and again in 2020 are misinformation and disinformation efforts to suppress the Black vote. Facebook’s inaction and insufficient reforms are nothing short of an in-kind donation to the Trump campaign.
Ads countering this disinformation, including those from Priorities USA Action and Color of Change PAC, have been erroneously classified and brought down by platforms that claim to combat users and advertisers sharing lies. While stifling our ability to serve voters accurate information about their voting rights, Facebook is prioritizing the organic disinformation of bad actors that seek to do harm.
Facebook must clarify exactly what went wrong and why they failed to disclose the problems, and provide a detailed analysis of how different campaigns were impacted. The public deserves to know, if through Facebook’s lack of preparedness, the company advantaged one presidential candidate over the other.