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Facebook mulls changes to how it handles political ads

Facing increased scrutiny, Facebook is considering making some changes to how it handles political ads, a source told CNN Business.

The company, however, appears committed to its most controversial policy in this area: allowing politicians to run false ads.

Facebook is considering changes to how political ads can be targeted, how ads are labeled, and providing more information about who is paying for an ad, the source told CNN Thursday.

While the policy changes may satisfy some of the company’s critics, Facebook will likely face continued backlash for its fact-checking policy.

Google, which owns YouTube, is also considering changes to its policies, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. CNN Business has reached out to Google for comment.

Facebook allows advertisers to target small groups, including even specific groups of users, with ads. Some critics — including some Facebook employees — have raised concerns that such highly-targeted political ads could undermine political discourse by decreasing the chance that rival campaigns and the press can see the ads and provide transparency about and fact-checks and context for the messages.

President Trump’s re-election campaign is the biggest political spender on Facebook and runs targeted ads every day. The campaign has spent more than $14 million on Facebook ads this year, according to Facebook. On the Democratic side the biggest spenders are Tom Steyer and Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttgieg, whose campaigns have spent about $9 million and $5 million this year respectively.

Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, called on Facebook and Google to stop micro-targeting for political ads in an interview with CNN in August. Neither company had a specific response to Wyden when contacted by CNN at the time.

On Wednesday, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said political ad targeting should be banned.

“I think that targeting, in that domain essentially, should not be allowed,” Gates said at a conference held by the New York Times. “It’s the targeting where you don’t see the hate ad that just appeals to that one person. It’s the targeting that’s really screwed this thing up.”

Last week, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced that his company would stop accepting political ads entirely.

“A political message earns reach when people decide to follow an account or retweet. Paying for reach removes that decision, forcing highly optimized and targeted political messages on people. We believe this decision should not be compromised by money,” Dorsey tweeted.

Facebook’s executives have remained steadfast in their contention that politicians should be able to run ads on their platform and that it is not Facebook’s place to decide whether an ad is true or false.

CNN

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