Facebook Employees Are No Longer Receiving Commissions on Sales of Political and Issue Ads

That sector made up a small slice of the company’s $55 billion-plus in 2018 revenue

The new policy applies to ads at both national and local levels Feodora Chiosea/iStock

Facebook will no longer pay out commissions when employees sell political ads on its platform.

Global elections public policy director Katie Harbath told Emily Glazer and Jeff Horwitz of The Wall Street Journal that the social network’s sales employees are no longer compensated based on goals related to the purchase of political and issue ads, both in the U.S. and globally.

Harbath also pointed out that the tools that potential political and issue advertisers must use are predominantly self-service, with Facebook employees only providing help with the registration process those advertisers are required to undergo, as well as when ads are stalled in the review process and other customer-service tasks.

And a former Facebook employee told Glazer and Horwitz that staffers who previously earned commissions on these types of ads had their base salaries boosted in order to make up the shortfall.

Harbath told Glazer and Horwitz the new policy applies to ads at both national and local levels, adding, “It doesn’t matter if you’re running for president or running for city council: You have access to the same tools and level of support.”

Facebook has said in the past that political advertising only accounts for a small portion of its ad revenue, and nonprofit Tech for Campaigns backed up that assertion, saying that while some $284 million of the approximately $623 million that was spent on digital political advertising during the 2018 midterm elections in the U.S. went to Facebook, the social network’s total revenue for the year was over $55 billion.

The company has considered doing away with political ads altogether, but decided against doing so, with Harbath telling that Facebook views political and issue ads on its platform as a civic responsibility.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg addressed this stance in a long note he published last September, writing, “Initially, this seemed simple and attractive. But we decided against it not due to money—as this new verification process is costly, and so we no longer make any meaningful profit on political ads—but because we believe in giving people a voice. We didn’t want to take away an important tool many groups use to engage in the political process.”

Harbath and director of privacy and public policy Steve Satterfield also went into detail on this topic in a Hard Questions post last May, writing, “Digital advertising is typically more affordable than TV or print ads, giving less-well-funded candidates a relatively economical way to reach their future constituents. Similarly, it would make it harder for people running for local office—who can’t afford larger media buys—to get their message out. And issue ads also help raise awareness of important challenges, mobilizing people across communities to fight for a common cause.”

david.cohen@adweek.com David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.