- Facebook is pausing advertisements for “weapon accessories and protective equipment” until two days after President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, BuzzFeed News reported.
- The move came after a report from Buzzfeed News’ Ryan Mac and and Craig Silverman, complaints from employees, and two separate letters to Facebook from some attorneys general and senators.
- One letter to Facebook by four attorneys general said, “Facebook’s microtargeted advertising of such gear, including to audiences that have an affinity for extremist content and election misinformation, could promote and facilitate further politically motivated attacks.”
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Facebook’s decision comes after recent reporting from Buzzfeed News’ Ryan Mac and and Craig Silverman, employee complaints, and concerns from senators and attorneys general who wrote letters to the company.
Buzzfeed News reported that this pause in the US will last at least until January 22, two days after the presidential inauguration.
Facebook updated a press release that details what the social network is doing ahead of the upcoming inauguration today with this new action. It is also pausing political ads on the site and blocking events created at the White House and state capitol buildings for that day as a cautionary measure.
“We will now also prohibit ads for accessories such as gun safes, vests and gun holsters in the US,” Facebook wrote in the press release about the pause. Weapon-related ads are already banned on Facebook.
There is heightened concern about political violence in DC, and in cities across the country, after pro-Trump supporters stormed Capitol Hill on January 6 in an effort to stop the certification of president-elect Joe Biden. Biden’s inauguration rehearsal was recently postponed because of security threats, per Politico reporting.
Buzzfeed News reported that these types of ads are shown in “News Feeds of people who had engaged with content about the attempted coup at the US Capitol building earlier this month,” Mac and Silverman wrote.
TTP Director Katie Paul told Buzzfeed News on January 13 that Facebook gets to profit these ads.
“Facebook’s advertising microtargeting is directing domestic extremists toward weapons accessories and armor that can make their militarized efforts more effective, all while Facebook profits,” Paul told Buzzfeed News.
Attorneys general also mentioned microtargeting in a letter sent to Will Castleberry for Facebook Public Policy on January 15. Karl Racine of DC, Kwame Raoul of Illinois, Maura Healey of Massachusetts, and Gurbir Grewal of New Jersey wrote the letter for Facebook to take “proactive steps” and take down these ads that might encourage violence ahead of the inauguration.
The four attorneys general wrote that people who were part of the storming on Capitol Hill wore “military-style tactical gear.”
Their letter continued: “We believe that Facebook’s microtargeted advertising of such gear, including to audiences that have an affinity for extremist content and election misinformation, could promote and facilitate further politically motivated attacks.”
Sens. Sherrod Brown, Tammy Duckworth, and Richard Blumenthal also wrote a letter on January 15 to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, requesting the company “hold itself accountable for how domestic enemies of the United States have used the company’s products and platform to further their own illicit aims.”
According to the letter, available through Buzzfeed News, the senators wanted Zuckerberg to “take immediate action” to remove these advertisements after the riot at Capitol Hill.
A number of companies and organizations have responded after the siege by suspending political contributions. Some corporations are suspending all political contributions at this time, while others are only suspending donations to the 147 Republican lawmakers who opposed the certification. Facebook is pausing all political donations for at least three months.