Democratic digital consultants are livid that Facebook is extending its post-election ad blackout period, concerned about the outsized impact it may have on the campaigns of two Georgia Democrats who face early January runoffs that will decide control of the US Senate.
The platform told consultants about the extension via email on Wednesday. In an email forwarded to C&E, a representative of the company wrote: “Given the ongoing conversation about the US presidential election, we’re continuing to temporarily pause all social issues, electoral or political ads in the US. While multiple sources have projected a presidential winner, we still believe it’s important to help prevent confusion or abuse on our platform. Advertisers can expect this temporary pause to last another month, though there may be an opportunity to resume these ads sooner. We will notify you when this pause is lifted.”
Google also plans to extend its ban, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The move from Facebook isn’t exactly a surprise. Ahead of Election Day, the platform was telling consultants the post-election ad ban would likely be short-lived, but digital strategists were skeptical. Now, as the political world focuses on Georgia’s two Senate runoffs, another month without paid options on Facebook is a challenge for the Democratic side.
“Anytime campaigns are stopped from communicating with voters or constituents, it inherently helps those already in power,” Mark Jablonowski, managing partner, and chief technology officer at DSPolitical, said during a Zoom with reporters on Tuesday. “There is tremendous excitement among Democrats and the progressive grassroots to try and win the Senate majority. Not being able to capitalize on this moment when people are energized by the Biden victory will hurt Democratic prospects in Georgia.”
Jablonowski noted the Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock campaigns would normally be using this time to focus on acquisition: “The fact that there’s absolutely no advertising on Google or Facebook platforms in these runoffs is a consequential issue right now.”
Other campaign outreach could also take a hit. ACRONYM’s Tatenda Musapatike, who formerly worked for Facebook, tweeted Wednesday: “Excited to watch the Right spread GA runoff election misinformation on Facebook and Instagram while voter registration, Early Vote, GOTV efforts are all curtailed on the platform.”
ACRONYM Founder Tara McGowan has also noted how the ad ban hurts Democrats more because they don’t have the same infrastructure of digital partisan media outlets as the right, which can use organic reach to circumvent the paid ad ban.
“Dems have to replicate the Biden turnout playbook from the November 3rd election. They have a higher hill to climb,” said Republican strategist Reid Vineis of Majority Strategies. “Losing Facebook for another month is going to hurt their ability to get those people to the polls.”
He noted that both Ossoff and Warnock have invested in digital — particularly raising small-dollar donations on Facebook: “They are going to need to shift strategies to reach and turn out voters.”