Facebook Users Can Now Opt Out of Seeing Political Ads

Social network has been criticized for allowing false ads from politicians and other groups

the facebook logo on benjamin franklin's eye
After criticism of its political ads policy, Facebook is giving users a way to opt out of seeing them. Facebook, Getty images
Headshot of Scott Nover

Key insight:

On Facebook, you no longer have to see political ads if you don’t want to.

The ability to hide political ads went in place Tuesday and will roll out to all U.S. users of Facebook and Instagram over the next few weeks, Facebook vp of product management and social impact Naomi Gleit announced in a blog post.

“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,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a USA Today op-ed published Tuesday night.

Facebook has come under fire for refusing to fact-check political ads, while Twitter has gone in the opposite direction, banning all political ads outright last fall. The split represents a larger divergence the two companies have taken that extends to fact-checking unpaid political content and holding public officials to site rules.

Facebook said users will be able to turn off “all social issues, electoral or political ads from candidates, Super PACs or other organizations that have the ‘Paid for by’ political disclaimer on them.” Users can opt out in their ad settings or by clicking on preferences for that individual ad.

Gleit said Facebook is hoping to make this feature available in “countries where we have enforcement on ads about social issues, elections and politics later this fall.”

The new policy was first announced at the end of Zuckerberg’s op-ed, which otherwise focused on the company’s get-out-the-vote campaign. Zuckerberg, which called the campaign the “largest voting information campaign in American history,” said he wants to register 4 million Americans to vote ahead of the November elections.

The social media site will also keep a feature that reminds users to register to vote, and then to vote as Election Day nears.

While critics—including his own employees—have lambasted Zuckerberg for his laissez-faire approach to President Donald Trump’s incendiary posts and his campaign’s misleading ads, Zuckerberg wrote in the op-ed that voting is the “best way to hold our leaders accountable and how we address many of the issues our country is grappling with.”

Facebook will also take steps to make political ads more transparent on the site. Now, the site’s “Paid for by” disclaimer will follow an individual ad even if someone shares it. Facebook admitted its previous functionality was “creating confusion about whether the share was an ad or not,” Gleit said. The political ad disclaimers were first introduced on Facebook in 2018.

Additionally, Facebook said it will add House and Senate race candidates to its Ad Library, allowing users to track Facebook ad spending for all federal elections.

Facebook said in October that it expects political ads to make up 0.5% of revenue in 2020, which would be $355 million for such ads if Facebook brings in $71 billion in total revenue like it did in 2019.

Media Matters for America, one of the liberal advocacy groups urging advertisers to boycott Facebook over political content policies, recently found 529 ads running on Facebook that it said make false claims about voter fraud. While Facebook’s no fact-checking policy makes an exception if the content constitutes election interference or voter suppression, a Facebook spokesperson previously told Adweek that the ads highlighted by Media Matters do not violate the company’s current policy.

Civil rights groups including the Anti-Defamation League and the NAACP are also urging an ad boycott of Facebook which, they claim, profits from promoting “hate, bigotry, racism, antisemitism and violence,” The Wall Street Journal first reported today.

@ScottNover scott.nover@adweek.com Scott Nover is a platforms reporter at Adweek, covering social media companies and their influence.