You don't have to look hard on social media to find opinions concerning politics. But the political ads you see could be changing in some way or another as the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election approaches. Targeted political advertisements are controversial. On one hand they can give campaigns a way to reach and inspire specific voters and to share information that voters might not see elsewhere. On the other, they can deepen divisions among social media users and spread information may not be true. You've heard the term fake news.
Social media companies profit from political ads. The re-election campaign of U.S. President Donald Trump has spent more than $14 million on Facebook ads this year. And the election campaigns of the top two Democratic spenders on Facebook candidates Tom Steyer and Pete Buttigieg, have also spent a combined total of $14 million. Twitter's decided to get rid of targeted political advertisements altogether. Its CEO says a political message can earn reach when people retweet it or follow the account but that these messages shouldn't be bought by political campaigns and then forced on Twitter users.
Google is a question mark. The Wall Street Journal reports that the technology company is considering changing its policies when it comes to political ads. If that happens, it could effect what you see across all of Google's platforms, like YouTube. Facebook's also considering rule changes concerning political ads and that might include sharing info about who paid for an advertisement. But it doesn't look like Facebook is going to start fact checking the ads that run on its platform.
Facebook's executives say it's not their place to decide whether an ad is true or false. And supporters of the policy say that's the job of journalists anyway. Opponents say Facebook allows false information to be spread if an ad's found to be untrue and their concerned that campaigns could abuse that freedom on Facebook. Could these companies pick and choose which ads are allowed based on their own fact checking? Yes, but doing that has brought them accusations of censorship and bias in the past.