Facebook will allow users to turn off political ads: Zuckerberg

Facing criticism for allowing misleading political ads on its services, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has announced that its platform will now allow users to turn off seeing political ads as the US inches towards presidential election in November.

Starting with some people and rolling out to everyone in the US over the next few weeks, people will be able to turn off all social issue, electoral or political ads from candidates, Super PACs (political action committees) or other organizations that have the “Paid for by” political disclaimer on them.

“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. We’ll still remind you to vote,” Zuckerberg wrote in an opinion piece on USA Today.

Later, the company said in a statement on Tuesday that users can perform this action on Facebook or Instagram directly from any political or social issue ad or through each platform’s ad settings.

“However, we know our system isn’t perfect. So if you’ve selected this preference and still see an ad that you think is political, please click the upper right corner of the ad and report it to us,” said Naomi Gleit, VP of Product Management and Social Impact at Facebook.

The company said it is rolling out this option in the US to begin with, and would make it available in countries where it has enforcement on ads about social issues, elections and politics later this fall.

To recall, Twitter has banned all kinds of political ads on its platform.

Facebook has been facing criticism for its policies on political ads both internally and externally that allows leaders to run political ads containing disinformation on its platforms.

The social network said it is building a new Voting Information Center that will give millions of people accurate information about voting, while also giving them the tools they need to register and make their voices heard at the ballot box.

“Our goal is to help register 4 million voters this year using Facebook, Instagram and Messenger, and help them get to the polls so they can hold our leaders accountable. This goal is double the estimated 2 million people we helped register in both 2018 and 2016,” informed Gleit.

The company said it is working with state election officials and other experts to ensure the Voting Information Center accurately reflects the latest information in each state.

The Voting Information Center will include posts from verified local election authorities with announcements and changes to the voting process, guidance on registration and who’s eligible to vote, information on how to request an absentee ballot (vote by mail) and information and links to help people plan their vote on Election Day.

Facebook expects more than 160 million people in the US to see this authoritative information about how to vote in the general election from July through November.

The company said that previously, when someone shared a political or issue ad to their profile or posted it on a Page, the “Paid for by” political disclaimer did not appear on shares.

“Starting today, disclaimers will stay on any political or issue ad that is shared so people can see who is behind it and who paid for it,” it said.

Facebook said it is also adding a new feature to its Ad Library, allowing people to track ad spending for US House and Senate races, in addition to spending for the candidates in the Presidential race.