Under mounting pressure to quell the flood of partisan misinformation coursing through its platform, Facebook announced a new policy in September: It would stop accepting all new political ads during the week preceding the presidential election.
“This election is not going to be business as usual,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a statement at the time. “We all have a responsibility to protect our democracy.”
In theory, as Zuckerberg touted, the policy would prevent political advertisers from spreading new messages to targeted audiences before fact-checkers and journalists had time to scrutinize them — reducing the risk of false and misleading claims going viral in the run-up to the vote.
In practice, it has been a disaster.
The ban went into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday. Chaos ensued almost immediately: Thousands of previously approved ads from Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s campaign and multiple progressive groups were wrongly blocked due to a “technical flaw,” potentially costing hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations. President Donald Trump’s campaign managed to launch new ads post-ban. And in violation of its own rules, Facebook approved ads from the president’s campaign prematurely declaring victory, as well as hundreds of ads bearing the misleading text “ELECTION DAY IS TODAY” or “Vote Today.”
Days later, Facebook is still putting out fires amid searing accusations of partisan bias and negligence. The company’s stunning failure to properly enforce its own high-profile policy at such a critical time has raised alarm about its preparedness for the fallout of the election — the results of which could be inconclusive for days or even weeks.
From the start, the policy was transparently more of a PR stunt than an effective election integrity measure, Jesse Lehrich, co-founder of the nonprofit Accountable Tech, told HuffPost after the ban began on Tuesday.
“[Facebook’s] implementation certainly has only...