Facebook has mistakenly blocked thousands of Joe Biden advertisements from appearing on its platform with just days to go until the US presidential election, according to the Democratic challenger’s campaign, as the company struggles to implement its latest policy to combat misinformation.
Mr Biden’s campaign said on Thursday night that many of its Facebook advertisements were still not appearing on the site after the social media company attempted to clamp down on new political ads in the final stretch of the campaign.
Facebook blamed the glitches on “unanticipated issues”, brushing off suggestions that they were evidence of bias towards the campaign of President Donald Trump or the Republicans.
The issue has once more placed Facebook at the centre of a political row in the heat of a US presidential campaign, despite the company’s attempts to avoid a repeat of the 2016 election, when it was accused of allowing the Trump campaign to use its platform to mislead voters.
Rob Flaherty, Mr Biden’s digital director, said in a statement: “We find ourselves five days out from election day, unable to trust that our ads will run properly, or if our opponents are being given an unfair, partisan advantage.”
The problems began on Tuesday morning when Facebook imposed a ban on new political advertisements for the final week of the campaign. It had been under pressure to fact-check candidates’ messages, but refused to do so, instead saying it would not allow them to advertise for the last few days in case they published misleading posts without time for others to critique or verify them.
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The ban excluded advertisements that had already been published by midnight on Monday night, however, leading to a flurry of new posts being uploaded to the site just hours before the deadline.
Facebook said its automated systems had erroneously flagged a number of advertisements as not having been registered in time. In a blog post, the company said: “While this impacted a small proportion of the ads about politics and social issues in our system, we regret any disruption in the delivery of these ads during this period.”
The campaign to re-elect Mr Trump has not complained of any advertisements being blocked, and in fact was able to publish advertisements earlier this week giving out the wrong election day. The Financial Times revealed on Tuesday those adverts had been seen by about 200,000 people in swing states before Facebook deleted them.
Mr Flaherty suggested the problems might be a sign that Facebook was deliberately favouring Mr Trump, saying: “It is currently unclear to us whether or not Facebook is giving Donald Trump an unfair electoral advantage in this particular instance, but it is abundantly clear that Facebook was wholly unprepared to handle this election despite having four years to prepare.”
The Biden campaign says it has calculated that it has lost $500,000 in projected fundraising revenue as a result of their advertisements not appearing. Other Congressional campaigns — many of which rely on Facebook as a primary way to communicate with voters — said they had also been affected.
Facebook denied allegations of partisanship, saying: “No ad was paused or rejected by a person, or because of any partisan consideration.”
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