Facebook Users Can Opt Out of Political Ads

John Lister's picture

Facebook chief says the site will let users opt-out of seeing political advertising for this year's US presidential elections. But the site won't seek to block controversial content posted by politicians themselves unless it breaks the law.

Writing in USA Today, company chief Mark Zuckerberg announced a voter registration drive. Facebook will have a dedicated section with information about how to register, cast a vote, or arrange mail-in or early votes. The section will include verified content from election officials.

This section will be promoted at the top of user's news feeds and on sister site Instagram, with Zuckerberg estimating 160 million Americans will see prominent links to the information.

Controversial And False Posts Stay Up

In the same article, Zuckerberg said that "Free expression is part of the messy process of democracy, and we take our responsibility to protect it incredibly seriously." In light of this he argued that users should be able to see a politician's words on Facebook because "accountability only works if we can see what those seeking our votes are saying, even if we viscerally dislike what they say."

The column appears to be a rejection of calls to remove political posts that are false or could incite unrest. However, Zuckerberg noted that the site will continue to remove any posts that "will cause imminent physical harm" or suppress voting, regardless of who wrote them. (Source: usatoday.com)

Political Ads Clearly Labeled

Meanwhile, Facebook is refining the way it handles paid political advertising. A technical tweak means all ads will be labeled as "Paid for" (with the name of the advertiser) whenever somebody sees them. Previously this label was not always visible when a user shared the post and it was in turn seen by friends.

Users will have an option to automatically block all such "Paid for" ads without needing to use third-party tools. (Source: bbc.co.uk)

Facebook says will also maintain a complete archive of ads provided from a particular advertiser, including the total spend. The idea is to make it easier to spot campaigns that target different and even contradictory messages at different audiences.

What's Your Opinion?

Will you use the option to block paid political ads? Has Facebook struck the right balance on which politician posts it should remove? Is it a useful effort for Facebook to promote information about how to vote or is that just a public relations exercise?

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