Georgia is the only state in the U.S. right now where Facebook allows political ads to run, but after Tuesday’s polls close that’s set to change.
According to Facebook’s site detailing changes to its ad policies and a story from Axios, the company will no longer allow political and social issue ads anywhere in the country, Georgia included, beginning early tomorrow.
Facebook told TechCrunch that the decision to toggle political ads in Georgia off again brings that state in line with its current “nationwide pause” on social issue, election and politics ads. A Facebook spokesperson declined to say when political ads will again be allowed or if permanently blocking them from the platform is under consideration.
The company first hit pause on those ad categories November 4 as a precaution designed to reduce misinformation in the U.S. presidential election. On December 16, the company re-allowed political ads in Georgia, inviting eager campaigns to pay to get their messages in front of Facebook users. It appears that some politicians, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) among them, pounced on Facebook’s Georgia loophole to raise money for themselves in spite of restrictions.
When political ads came flooding back in for Georgians, they edged out mainstream news sources, according to new reporting from The Markup. While that result is fairly intuitive, it does underline the outsized influence of targeting political advertising in Facebook’s information ecosystem.
Plenty of politicians and political groups are likely eager to get back to fundraising on Facebook. The company’s decision to keep the pause in place suggests that it’s still evaluating how — and perhaps if — it wants to handle political ads in the future. But Facebook also might be waiting for the storm to pass in light of the misinformation that plagued November’s drawn-out process of calculating election results.
It’s also worth noting that Facebook’s head of advertising integrity Rob Leathern left the company at the end of December, calling his team’s work on the 2020 U.S. election the “culmination of a huge amount of effort over several years.” Leathern helped sculpt the company’s policies around political advertising — decisions that were often controversial due to the prevalence of paid misinformation sweeping through the platform throughout 2020.
Because they will decide control of the Senate, the unusual pair of runoff races in a state that just flipped blue are high-stakes for both political parties. With a Democratic Senate, the Biden administration’s ambitious plans for things like COVID relief and the climate crisis will have a much better shot at becoming a reality. And for Republicans looking to stymie the president-elect’s policy priorities, extended control of the Senate would put a powerful barrier in Biden’s way.