Facebook and Google banned political ads after Election Day to limit the spread of misinformation, but that’s sparked criticism ahead of two Georgia runoff elections that’ll likely decide which party controls the US Senate.
When both companies banned political ads, they didn’t say when the prohibitions would end. Facebook initially said its ban was indefinite but in an update Wednesday to an earlier blog post, the company told advertisers to expect the prohibition to last another month. Google had said its would last at least a week but that it could go on longer. A Wednesday report by The Wall Street Journal said the search giant has told advertisers it’s unlikely to lift the ban this month or in December.
The ongoing political-ad ban comes as two US Senate runoff elections are set to take place on Jan. 5. Georgia Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, both seeking reelection, each fall short of the 50% majority of votes needed to avoid a runoff. The outcome of the runoffs is critical because Democrats need to win both those seats to gain control of the Senate. Capturing those seats would result in a 50-50 tie in the Senate. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris could then break any tie votes in the chamber, a situation that would pave the way for Democrats to pass new policies.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee on Wednesday slammed the actions by Facebook and Google, calling the ad bans “voter suppression.”
“Organic disinformation is the actual problem on these platforms, and continuing to ban ads is now actively harmful to organizations working to inform Georgia’s diverse voters about the January runoffs. These ad bans are voter suppression plain and simple, they directly benefit Republican senators, and at a minimum there should be an exemption for ads in Georgia over the next two months,” DSCC Executive Director Scott Fairchild said in a statement.
Facebook and Google didn’t respond to questions about whether they’re considering an exemption.
“The temporary pause for ads about politics and social issues in the US continues to be in place as part of our ongoing efforts to protect the election,” Facebook said in a blog post.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.