- A pro-Trump super PAC bought Facebook ads that falsely told users that their voter registration was incomplete in order to get them to submit personal information to the super PAC.
- The ads were removed from users’ feeds after the Washington Post asked Facebook about them this weekend.
- Facebook has said it will not remove ads that contain falsehoods if the ads are purchased by political candidates, but removes some political ads bought by third parties like super PACs.
- Voting is a touchy subject for Facebook — following the 2016 election, congressional investigators found that Russian agents used misleading Facebook ads to discourage voter turnout.
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A Facebook ad purchased by a pro-Trump super PAC earlier this month falsely told thousands of users that they needed to register to vote in order to collect their personal information.
“Official records show that your voter registration is incomplete,” the ad said, accompanied by a graphic designed to look like a ballot. “Follow the link below to complete your voter registration NOW!”
Contrary to what the ad claimed, there were no such official records tied to the message — the ad was purchased by a pro-Trump super PAC, The Committee to Defend the President, and directed users to enter their personal information on the super PAC’s website.
The ads, which are logged in Facebook’s ad archive, appeared in at least five different versions and targeted tens of thousands of Arizona residents. The majority of people who were shown the ad were older than 65.
Facebook removed the ads this weekend after Tony Romm and Isaac Stanley-Becker from the Washington Post asked about them, according to the Post. Because the ads claimed to have users’ voter registration status, they violate Facebook’s policies against ads that “assert or imply personal attributes.”
A Facebook spokesperson confirmed to Business Insider that the ads were removed for violating the personal attributes policy. Facebook will send similar ads to a third-party fact checker to verify whether they are true or false, and will remove false ads, the spokesperson added.
Facebook has faced harsh scrutiny for its policies on misleading political ads and on ads meant to confuse voters. The social network has said it will not fact-check ads bought by political candidates, but has cracked down on misleading ads bought by third parties like super PACs.
Voting is a particularly touchy subject for Facebook — after the 2016 election, congressional investigators found that Russians used misleading Facebook ads in an attempt to influence the outcome of the election. Mark Zuckerberg faced tough questions from lawmakers regarding Facebook’s policies on misleading ads when he testified before Congress last week.
The Committee to Defend the President, the super PAC that bought the ads, told the Washington Post that the ads were not misleading because its website encouraged people to register to vote in addition to collecting their personal information. It argued that Facebook’s decision to remove the ads amounted to “blatant voter suppression.”