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Facebook seems to be letting the Trump campaign run ads that break its rules

Published Oct 27th, 2020 8:13PM EDT
Trump campaign
Image: Erin Scott - Pool via CNP/MEGA

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  • The Trump campaign has run at least one ad on Facebook suggesting that he’s won the 2020 election, which is a violation of Facebook’s rules governing political advertising — specifically, that ads which prematurely declare victory before the result is official aren’t supposed to be allowed.
  • A ban on political ads on Facebook went into effect Tuesday, and it will stay in place through this final week before the election.
  • One exception to Facebook’s political ad ban: If a political ad got at least one impression before the ban went into effect, it can be re-run despite the ban closer to Election Day 2020.

Even though Facebook has a rule

banning political ads on the social network from being able to run with “premature claims of election victory,” it seems that a Trump campaign ad suggesting that very thing has already run at least briefly on the world’s largest social media platform.

Based on the Trump campaign’s Facebook ad library data, which is viewable here, it seems as though only a small number of women apparently located in Maine saw this ad already. The ad itself, which you can check out here, features a narrator’s voiceover intoning “It’s morning in America” while a sun rises in the background with President Trump’s face on it. The voiceover then switches to someone else proclaiming that “Donald J. Trump is still president of the United States” while angry faces in the ad are seen howling “NOOOO!” It has all the hallmarks and appearance of a Trump victory ad, complete with opponents lamenting their loss with screams — which, again, would seem to flout Facebook’s rules about a “premature” claim of election victory. Not only that, but the ad takes advantage of an exception to Facebook’s policies around the ban on political ads that went into effect today.

Political ads that garnered at least 1 impression before the October 27 deadline — which now puts in place Facebook’s ban on political ads running in the week before the election — can run again, in spite of the ban. Naturally, as CNBC explained on Tuesday, that exception sparked something of a flood of political messages from advertisers who wanted to quickly grab those impressions in order to be able to run different political messages under the ban’s exception closer to Election Day, on November 3.

In the Trump campaign’s Facebook ad library, you can also see that it has ads already teed up and ready to go touting strong third quarter GDP numbers which … haven’t been released yet (the official figures come out on October 29). “Growth in the third quarter was more than double the previous record,” one of those ready-to-go ads reads. Notes another: “The US economy just had the fastest three months of growth . . . ever.”

The Biden campaign’s inactive and active ads in its Facebook ad library can be viewed here. Many of them have calls to action that include asking viewers to answer a brief survey, while others offer messaging around Election Day itself, such as reminding people that if they’re in line with the polls close, they’ll still be allowed to cast their vote.

Facebook, for its part, says no political ads will be allowed to run temporarily after the polls close on November 3, in order “to reduce opportunities for confusion or abuse. We will notify advertisers when this policy is lifted.”

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.

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