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Facebook and Instagram to let users switch off political ads

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Facebook is giving users the ability to turn off political ads in their feeds following backlash over its policy of letting candidates and political groups lie in them.

Facebook and Instagram users will be able to switch off the ads by clicking on the ads’ settings or by going through their user settings. The ability to block political ads will start rolling out in the U.S. today and reach all users within a few weeks.

In the fall, Facebook plans to expand the capability globally. 

“Facebook is supporting and strengthening our democracy in 2020 and beyond,” Zuckerberg said in a USA Today op-ed on Tuesday that announced the change. “And for those of you who’ve already made up your minds and just want the election to be over, we hear you.”

In January, Facebook revealed its plans to give people more control over seeing political ads. The change follows Facebook’s controversial decision to let politicians and political groups buy ads without them being policed for accuracy. It also comes as the company faces criticism for letting President Trump post inflammatory comments about protests for racial justice, which upset Facebook employees, and statements about mail-in ballots. 

Facebook has defended its political ads policy by saying the company favors freedom of speech and that people should be able to see what political leaders say, so they can make up their own minds about their comments. It also said that banning political ads would favor incumbents, who often have more money to spend on traditional advertisements.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, in contrast, banned political ads, saying that any traction political messages get on social media should be “earned” not bought.”

During a press call on Wednesday, Facebook also addressed a recent executive order by President Trump that aims to weaken or revoke legal protections that keep social media companies from being held liable for what their users post. Trump signed the order after Twitter Twitter added a misinformation warning on one of his tweets about mail-in ballots.

Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs and communications, complained that removing the legal protection, called Section 230, would lead to less free speech, not more. He also pointed out that the two political parties seek opposite goals: Republicans want Facebook to do less fact-checking, but Democrats want more.

“Policy makers are just going to have to decide what rules they want for campaigns,” he said.

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Lyron Foster is a Hawaii based African American Musician, Author, Actor, Blogger, Filmmaker, Philanthropist and Multinational Serial Tech Entrepreneur.

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