Topline: President Trump ran more than 1,800 Facebook ads mentioning “impeachment” over the past week and spent up to $2 million in the process, according to a new analysis by a New York University researcher.
- Laura Edelson, the researcher, said the ads have been viewed between 16 to 18 million times in the past seven days. She also estimated that Trump spent anywhere from $600,000 to $2 million in that period of time.
- In the ads, Trump is asking Facebook users to join the “Official Impeachment Defense Task Force” to “know who stood with me when it mattered most”, among other messages.
- According to the analysis, vice president Mike Pence’s Facebook page joined in the effort and spent over $700,000 between September 22 and 28. One of his ads reads, “The Democrats thrive on silencing and intimidating my supporters, like YOU. They want to take YOUR VOTE away.”
- The point of the ads is to collect users’ contact information and understand where they stand on different campaign issues, said Edelson.
- Nick Clegg, the former U.K. deputy prime minister, is Facebook’s vice president of global affairs and communications. He said September 24 that Facebook is not fact-checking politicians’ political ads, which critics say gives them free rein to share incorrect information, hate and abuse.
Surprising fact: Trump has spent nearly $20 million on Facebook ads since May 2018, when the social media network started publicly disclosing political ad spending. The New York Times reported in May that Trump spent nearly $5 million for the year on the platform in political ads, outstripping Democratic presidential candidates. (Those 23 Democrats did eventually outspend Trump, however.)
What to watch for: How Facebook does—or doesn’t —handle political disinformation campaigns heading into 2020. Over 70 countries are running online disinformation campaigns, according to Oxford University researchers, and Facebook is the top platform of choice.
Key background: Facebook’s political ad disclosure policy was rolled out after it was revealed Russia abused the platform to manipulate the 2016 election. The Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook considered getting rid of political ads, but CEO Mark Zuckerberg made the final decision to keep them. In August, Facebook announced that in order for a campaign to run political ads, a tax-registered organization identification number must be provided. Facebook also released an archive of political ads for the sake of transparency, but critics said it was full of bugs and technical issues.