Facebook will limit new political ads right before November, but still allow existing campaigns to run

  • Facebook will prohibit new political ads from running in the week leading up to Election Day.
  • But ad spend will likely not be as concentrated during that period anyway because of an abnormal election season.
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Facebook announced a two-pronged approach ahead of the upcoming presidential election: The social network said Thursday that it will not allow new political ads to run in the week before the election in November and will flag posts from candidates claiming premature victory, redirecting users to vote tallies showing up-to-date results, per The Wall Street Journal. This news comes after reports about tech companies meeting with government officials to discuss fighting election meddling.

This may seem well-intentioned, but ad spend during that last week will likely not be as concentrated as it has been during previous presidential elections. Facebook will still allow existing campaigns to run—ads that do not get fact checked, per Recode—and election spending during the fall will likely be more spread out due to increased mail-in voting amid the pandemic.

With the mail-in ballot deadline for most states falling in late October, ads trying to reach voters will likely be rolled out soon, rather than during the final weeks of October. So ultimately, Facebook's election plan likely won't affect its bottom line. In January, we projected total digital political ad spend to hit a whopping $951.8 million in 2020—nearly triple what it was in 2016—with Facebook poised to take more than half of that. 

Previously, there were reports that Facebook had been contemplating a "kill switch" to shut off all political advertising after Election Day. Last week, The New York Times reported that Facebook is mapping out contingency plans in case President Donald Trump or his campaign staff attempt to delegitimize election results through the platform. (The president has more than 30 million followers on Facebook.) Executives had reportedly been meeting to discuss how they can minimize Facebook's impact on election results, though they declined to provide more details when pressed, per Reuters.

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