**UPDATE: 21 November: With just 3 weeks to the general election, Google has bowed to public pressure (that's you!) and announced that it is cracking down on political ads worldwide. It’s stopped short of a temporary ban, but has moved to limit microtargeting and tighten the ban on false claims in order to safeguard democracy. Now Facebook's left out in the cold and really feeling the pressure, so will you add your name today to push it to protect the UK election by suspending political ads until voting is over?**
Our democracy is at stake.
New reports suggest that shadowy, unscrupulous actors could try to hack December’s general election for their own political ends, using Facebook and Google’s massive advertising reach.
We’ve all seen them. Online political ads, some from people, parties and faces we trust. Others from groups we’ve never heard of. It’s hard to know who and what to believe.
Until last night, Facebook was sticking to its position not to protect us from outright lies, refusing to fact-check ads from politicians -- but reports suggest it’s now wavering under public pressure. And Google’s rethinking its position too.
Our advertising regulations are woefully out of date. But with an election only weeks away, there isn’t time to update the law. So we need Facebook and Google to take action and temporarily ban all political ads on their platforms until the election is over — like Google did just before the abortion referendum in Ireland last year.
Tell Facebook and Google to help protect UK democracy and ban all political ads until the election is over.
What we see and hear online affects the way we think about candidates, issues and parties. Adverts -- and especially the micro-targeted online adverts made possible by social media platforms -- are particularly influential in manipulating voters’ beliefs. So when these ads pop up on our phones or laptops we need to know that what they are telling us is true.
A recent report by a House of Commons committee shows the scale of the threat our democracy faces:
“Democracy is at risk from the malicious and relentless targeting of citizens with disinformation and personalised ‘dark adverts’ from unidentifiable sources”.
Right now, there’s virtually nothing to stop nefarious corporations and special interest groups from buying up an incalculable array of micro-targeted, online ads.
While we’ve just learnt that both Google and Facebook are considering new rules to protect democracy, neither are planning to move fast enough to stop misinformation and lies spreading ahead of the UK general election.
The truth is that unless Facebook and Google take emergency steps to protect our election then we are all vulnerable to misleading ads pushed by dodgy groups that we can’t trust. Which is why we’re joining with our friends at Mozilla calling for an immediate emergency ban on all online political ads.
Tell Facebook and Google to help us protect our election by banning all political ads.
We know public pressure works. In the last week we’ve seen global social media behemoth Twitter take the first step and announce it will ban all paid for political ads. And SumOfUs members aren’t strangers to fighting tech firms and winning. Together we helped force Google drop its scary surveillance search engine -- Dragonfly.
Now let’s make Google and Facebook safeguard the UK’s democracy.
SumOfUs is supporting the call from our friends at the Mozilla Foundation and others for Facebook and Google to take decisive action and temporarily remove all paid-for political ads during the UK general election.