Facebook is following through on its January pledge to give users more control over the ads they see on its platforms.
At the start of the year, the company announced that users would now be able to “choose how an advertiser can reach them with a Custom Audience from a list.” At the time, consultants were worried that would limit reach for campaigns and groups on the platform.
On Tuesday, Facebook said that its users as well as those on Instagram “will be able to turn off all social issue, electoral or political ads from candidates, Super PACs or other organizations that have the ‘Paid for by’ political disclaimer on them.”
That started on Tuesday “for some people” and is “rolling out to everyone in the US over the next few weeks.”
Shannon Chatlos, a VP at GOP firm Strategic Partners & Media, said that her firm will consider switching their clients’ budgets away from the platform if they see adverse results after the change takes effect.
"The philosophy of our firm remains the same, we're screen agnostic. We will place advertising where the voters are and where we can get the best bang for the buck for our clients,” Chatlos said. “Anything that Facebook does, or any other platform for that matter, we will adjust our clients' spending accordingly to get their message out."
Consultants should have known this was coming, said Beth Becker, a Democratic digital consultant. Still, she expects few users will actually employ the opt-out feature.
“The number of folks likely to do this are slim to none frankly,” she said. “In other words, I think it's a pretty nice announcement to make, but in practicality, I don't know it will actually make a difference for our strategies.”
Still, Becker noted that Facebook’s political designation also applies to non-profits classified as 501c3s.
“This could potentially hurt education efforts on various things if a significant number of folks do opt-out,” she said. “I just truly don't think we're looking at huge numbers of people knowing how to do so and thus doing so.”
Consider the California Consumer Privacy Act for context. Since the start of the year residents have had “the right to know, the right to delete, and the right to opt-out of the sale of personal information that businesses collect, as well as additional protections for minors.”
Still, some who’ve tried to exercise their data privacy rights became frustrated with the process. It’s possible that Facebook users will either ignore the option, forget they have it or find the few clicks it takes to exercise it too much of a bother.
Meanwhile, Facebook also unveiled its Voting Information Center on Tuesday, which “will also be a place where people can get information about registering to vote, or requesting an absentee or mail-in ballot, depending on the rules in their state.”
That move comes as a recent study found that voter registration is dropping amid the ongoing pandemic.
The non-profit Center for Election Innovation and Research (CEIR) found that “in 11 states, [new voter registration] totals in March 2020 began to show a substantial decrease from March 2016, and all 13 [states surveyed] dropped in April.”
“It is likely that much of the decline in new voter registrations can be attributed to distancing and closures related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Department of Motor Vehicle closures, limited in-person interactions, and a halt to large public gatherings have curbed traditional sources of registration such as motor-voter and get-out-the-vote registration drives,” CEIR researchers found.