As controversy rages over major social media platforms intervening when it comes to users expressing political viewpoints, and with the Trump administration lately escalating its burgeoning feud with Silicon Valley over tech giants' "liability shields", Facebook has announced it will now allow users to block political ads altogether.
The decision comes amid pressure especially from Democrats and the Left to get Facebook to fact-check political ads to root out alleged "disinformation". Instead the company has opted to roll out a feature allowing its some two billion individual users to essentially turn off or mute "all social issue, electoral or political ads from candidates and Super PACs."
The 'opt out' feature will be available on Instagram as well, and seeks to ease the pressure of the question of social media platforms becoming 'arbiters of truth'. The move is a huge defeat for the Biden campaign, which called for censoring political posts nebulously deemed "disinformation" and "offensive".
The Biden campaign previously urged Facebook to "proactively stem the tide of false information" in an open letter to CEO Mark Zuckerberg, including fact-checking political ads two weeks head of any election.
Facebook has been resistant to this call, with the new feature unlikely to satisfy Democrats seeking to shut down what they see as pro-Trump "disinformation" as well as conservative sources.
Facebook announced what the feature will achieve in a post about it's broader 'get out the vote' initiative:
Starting today for some people and rolling out to everyone in the US over the next few weeks, people 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. You can do this on Facebook or Instagram directly from any political or social issue ad or through each platform’s ad settings.
But no doubt there will further be controversy over what constitutes "political".
The company says users will be able to 'flag' content they think is political but still made it through the filters: "if you’ve selected this preference and still see an ad that you think is political, please click the upper right corner of the ad and report it to us," the statement added.
The feature will be available for some users starting as early as Wednesday.