President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign has run more than 200 misleading political advertisements on Facebook in the past day claiming the “Fake News media” will attempt to block the campaign’s upcoming Super Bowl ad — despite federal regulations that require the TV spot be aired.
The messages, posted to Facebook on Thursday and Friday and disclosed on the tech platform’s advertising transparency website, represent the latest example of the social media giant’s willingness to let politicians misdirect users and could revive criticism that the company profits from misinformation. Facebook declined to comment.
In the Facebook ads, the Trump campaign called on the “liberal media” to air the Super Bowl ad.
“We know the Fake News media will do everything they can to ensure our ad never sees the light of day,” the Facebook advertisement reads. “That’s why I’m calling on YOU to step up and DEMAND that they air our ad during the Super Bowl.”
“DEMAND THAT THE LIBERAL MEDIA AIRS OUR AD,” the advertisement continues. The Trump campaign didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.
Facebook has come under mounting scrutiny in recent months for its advertising policy permitting politicians to lie on its platform. The issue took on national importance last fall after Trump’s campaign ran a Facebook ad telling untruths about former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
Soon after, Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren ran a Facebook ad that deliberately lied about Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s political leanings to draw attention to the policy. Warren has since repeatedly accused Facebook of taking money “to promote lies.” Zuckerberg has said Facebook does not restrict politicians’ speech because users should judge that speech for themselves.
Trump’s newest Facebook ad is misleading on two counts, according to Andrew Schwartzman, an expert in media law at the Benton Foundation, a civil society group.
First, the Super Bowl, and by extension, the Trump campaign’s Super Bowl ad, will be aired exclusively on Fox, whose chairman, Rupert Murdoch, shares close ties with Trump. Other media companies will have no role to play in determining whether Fox airs the campaign ad. Fox didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Second, regulations by the Federal Communications Commission prohibit broadcasters such as Fox from rejecting political advertisements by legally qualified candidates for federal office.
“They must run the ad,” said Schwartzman. “The only alteration they can make is if the ad does not comply with the sponsorship identification requirements saying ‘paid for by so-and-so’ in lettering of a certain size. That’s it.”
In exchange for a 60-second ad early in the game, the Trump campaign is expected to pay Fox at least $10 million. Trump has run separate Facebook ads confirming that the campaign has purchased 60 seconds of Super Bowl airtime. Fox is also expected to air an ad during the Super Bowl by Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg.
Trump’s campaign has purchased airtime on Fox before with no issues. In October, the campaign ran an ad during the final game of the World Series that cost seven figures, highlighted the President’s accomplishments, and slammed Democrats for their focus on impeachment.
While the FCC enforces political advertising rules on broadcast TV stations and networks, the regulations do not apply to cable networks, said Schwartzman. The rules also do not generally apply to cable companies that are simply carrying broadcaster channels to cable subscribers.