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Facebook Introduces New Feature to ‘Turn Off’ Political Ads

Ross Kelly

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Facebook political ads

The social media giant said its goal ahead of the election is to help register four million voters using Facebook, Instagram and Messenger.

Facebook has revealed that users will be able to turn off political ads ahead of the upcoming US presidential election.

Writing in USA Today, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg announced the move alongside an initiative to boost voter turnout.

“For those of you who’ve already made up your minds and just want the election to be over, we hear you – so we’re also introducing the ability to turn off seeing political ads,” Zuckerberg said.

Moving forward, Facebook and Instagram users will now be given the option to turn off political adverts when they appear on the newsfeed.

The new feature will apply to ads focusing on political, electoral and social issues, Facebook confirmed, as well as ads run by candidates or particular organisations.

Initially, this will be rolled out to users in the United States. However, users in other countries can expect to see the new features later this year.

These changes aren’t the first that Facebook has implemented in an effort to better-control political advertising on the platform.

Since 2018, a “paid for by” disclaimer has featured on political ads. These changes were introduced following the 2016 US presidential election in which the company was heavily criticised for failing to regulate misinformation and ‘fake news’ efficiently.

The disclaimers haven’t been as effective as first hoped, however. Once a user shared a “paid for” post onto their own timeline or news feed, the disclaimer disappeared.

In addition to political ad changes, Zuckerberg announced efforts to boost voter turnout at the US elections in November.

The new pledge from Zuckerberg will also see a ‘Voting Information Center’ featured at the top of American users’ news feed.

“Voting is voice. It’s the single most powerful expression of democracy, the best way to hold our leaders accountable, and how we address many of the issues our country is grappling with,” he wrote.

“I believe Facebook has a responsibility not just to prevent voter suppression – which disproportionately targets people of colour – but to actively support well-informed voter engagement, registration, and turnout,” Zuckerberg added.

In a statement, Facebook said its goal ahead of the election is to help register four million voters using Facebook, Instagram and Messenger.

This goal, the social media giant noted, is “double the estimated 2 million people we helped register in both 2018 and 2016”.

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This latest move by Facebook follows months of intense criticism over its handling of political advertising and moderation of misleading content on the platform.

In May, Zuckerberg was criticised for failing to act on a flurry of misleading social media posts by President Donald Trump.

Trump suggested that mail ballots in the November election would likely be largely fraudulent and forged.

Twitter, on the other hand, labelled the posts as misleading and offered alternative information on the issue of mail-in voting. The decision to label the tweets prompted Trump to claim twitter was “interfering” in the election.

Ross Kelly

Staff Writer

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