Facebook will lift a ban on political advertising imposed after the US election to curb the spread of misinformation, and has pledged to investigate whether its political ads systems need a further overhaul.
Advertisers would be able to resume running political ads on March 4, Facebook said in a blog post on Wednesday. It said it had introduced the temporary moratorium “to avoid confusion or abuse following Election Day”.
The social media company said it had received “feedback” about its ads system during the latest election cycle, including its inability to distinguish between ads from politicians and political groups, and social issue ads from advocacy groups, for example.
“As a result, we plan to use the coming months to take a closer look at how these ads work on our service to see where further changes may be merited,” it said on Wednesday.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, has long resisted pressure to fact-check political advertising, arguing that doing so is not in the interest of free expression and that private sector companies should not be the “arbiter of truth”.
However, the company rowed back on that hardline position shortly before the November 3 vote amid pressure from critics and a proliferation of election misinformation, initially announcing that no new political ads could run in the week leading up to the vote, plus a one-week post-vote political ads blackout.
Facebook and Google, which took similar action, later extended their bans as former US president Donald Trump stoked unrest after Joe Biden’s win by repeatedly promoting conspiracy theories and unproven claims of election fraud.
Facebook has faced frustration over the ban from some political groups, who complain that they have been unable to fundraise or share messaging.
Just hours before the Facebook announcement, two Democratic party committees issued a joint statement accusing the company of “refusing to commit to a clear date for ending this misguided ban on political ads”.
“This reckless and haphazard policy has made it harder for campaigns and organisations that do provide accurate information to voters and engage with them in good faith, and it hinders communities of colour in particular from fully participating in the democratic process.”
In December, Facebook temporarily lifted the ban for ads related to the Georgia senate runoff, despite previously telling critics that such a carve-out was not technically feasible. Google last week lifted its pause on political advertising for the second time, after having reimposed it after the January 6 Capitol riots.