Facebook extends political ad ban as Georgia Senate runoffs heat up

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Facebook alerted political strategists on Wednesday that the company planned to extend its ban on political ads for another month, upending digital ad preparations for two Georgia Senate runoffs that will decide control of Congress.

“Given the ongoing conversation about the US presidential election, we’re continuing to temporarily pause all social issues, electoral or political ads in the US,” Facebook ad representatives wrote in the announcement, according to emails obtained by POLITICO. “While multiple sources have projected a presidential winner, we still believe it’s important to help prevent confusion or abuse on our platform.”

“Advertisers can expect this temporary pause to last another month, though there may be an opportunity to resume these ads sooner,” the email added.

Following Election Day, both Facebook and Google banned all political ads from their platforms in an effort to limit the spread of misinformation around the election. But the policy drew harsh criticism from digital strategists in both political parties, as several campaigns, including the two Senate runoffs in Georgia, are still ongoing. If Democrats win both of them, they will control a 50-50 Senate, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris able to split ties after she is inaugurated. If Republicans win one or both seats, they will remain in the majority.

Extending the ban through mid-December will limit the Georgia campaigns’ ability to raise money and mobilize support for the Jan. 5 elections.

In the email to strategists, Facebook representatives said they would “notify” them when the pause is lifted. They also urged clients to “get your message out through organic posts,” rather than through paid digital ads. Facebook also appended its blog post on its ad ban with the news that it would be extending it for several more weeks.

The Wall Street Journal first reported the extension of Facebook’s political ad ban, also reporting that Google is also considering an extension of its one-week ban on political ads. Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Facebook also instituted a self-imposed ban on new political ads a week before the election, but the policy rollout initially kicked off hundreds of pre-approved digital ads, leaving campaigns, including both presidential campaigns, with blocked ads for several days. Facebook called it a “technical glitch,” but it fueled fears that the platform may ban political ads altogether.

At the time, Facebook officials denied that the ban would be extended indefinitely, and in the email to strategists it still referred to the move as a “temporary pause.”

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