- Facebook said it will allow US political candidates to sponsor branded content on Instagram, as long as they follow certain guidelines that brands currently have to adhere to.
- In a statement to Business Insider, Facebook said “there’s a place for branded content in political discussion on our platforms,” and that it will allow content as long as the influencers who post the sponsored content disclose it through specific tools on the platform.
- The policy comes after The New York Times reported that Mike Bloomberg’s presidential campaign was paying meme accounts to post campaign ads in the form of self-deprecating memes.
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Facebook will allow influencers on Instagram to post sponsored content paid for by political campaigns, as long as they clearly label the posts as branded content, the company said in a statement.
Influencers who post content on Instagram that is sponsored by political campaigns will have to use the platform’s “branded content tool” to clearly label the post as sponsored, Facebook told Business Insider.
“After hearing from multiple campaigns, we agree that there’s a place for branded content in political discussion on our platforms,” a Facebook spokesperson said. “We’re allowing US-based political candidates to work with creators to run this content, provided the political candidates are authorized and the creators disclose any paid partnerships through our branded content tools.”
The change comes after The New York Times reported that Mike Bloomberg’s presidential campaign was paying meme accounts to post political ads poking fun at the billionaire candidate.
Bloomberg, whose net worth is over $61 billion, is not accepting political donations to his campaign. He has spent over $200 million in ads as of early February. In comparison, Bernie Sanders’ campaign spent over $9 million.
The memes paid for by Bloomberg’s campaign recently did not use an in-app label that posts were a “paid partnership with” the campaign, like the labels used when influencers post content sponsored by companies.
Instead, the memes said in captions that “(Yes this is really sponsored by @mikebloomberg)” or “(paid for by @mikebloomberg).”
Facebook said it is asking those meme accounts to “retroactively use the branded content tag.”
But, Facebook said it won’t store sponsored political content in its “Ad Library” unless those ads were promoted. Instagram only makes money from promoted posts and advertising; branded content like Bloomberg’s is posted by independent influencers who are paid by brands, or in this case a political campaign.
Elizabeth Warren, who is also running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, took issue with Facebook’s policy.
“Refusing to catalogue paid political ads because the Bloomberg campaign found a workaround means there will be less transparency for the content he is paying to promote,” Warren said in a tweet on Friday. “Mike Bloomberg cannot be allowed to buy an election with zero accountability.”
The Bloomberg campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Facebook also told Business Insider that this won’t change its policy that prohibits fact-checking politicians, a position that it has received criticism for in the past.
The company said it will tell third-party fact-checkers that politicians’ speech in sponsored content can’t be fact-checked, but that if the content is the voice of the independent creator or influencer, that speech would be eligible for fact-checking.