Facebook will not be removing an ad falsely claiming that Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell endorses the impeachment of Republican President Donald Trump from its platform. The ad was posted and promoted by leftist activist Adriel Hampton, a California gubernatorial candidate who is running bogus political ads in an effort to test the limits of Facebook’s fact-checking policy, Fox News has confirmed.
Hampton’s current advertisement is tagged #ThanksMitch and features footage of McConnell spliced together to make it appear the senate majority leader is calling for Trump’s impeachment. McConnell has vowed to quash a removal effort and has also fiercely condemned Democratic attempts to impeach Trump.
According to Facebook’s ad library, the ad has received over 1,000 impressions and was boosted for a few hundred dollars.
In a statement to Fox News, Facebook didn’t say it would remove the ad.
“This person has made clear he registered as a candidate to get around our policies, so his content, including ads, will continue to be eligible for third-party fact-checking,” the statement reads.
When asked why the social media giant couldn’t just remove the ad itself, the company didn’t immediately respond.
“So bizarre that Facebook tells reporters that third-party fact checkers [sic] can flag my false ads,” Hampton responded on Twitter. “But Facebook’s official policy for those fact checkers [sic] tells them ‘hands off’ [sic] of ads by political parties and politicians. Facebook has lost the plot.”
“It is a massive problem that Trump can spend hundreds of millions of dollars on Facebook,’ Hampton said in a statement posted to Facebook. ‘You add that to the fact that his ability to micro-target ads to reach influenceable groups of people with different messages. This is absolutely weaponized lying.’”
Hampton said he regularly works with a team of about a dozen volunteers, and creates ads with fake information as well as legitimate ones.
McConnell’s office did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.
Facebook’s fact-checking policy has come under intense scrutiny from politicians like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who complain it allows users to spread disinformation.
In a confrontation with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg during a hearing this past October, the New York congresswoman pressed him on whether white supremacist content would be allowed on the platform. “I mean, If you’re not fact-checking political advertisements, I’m trying to understand the bounds here — what’s fair game,” she said.
A similar controversy arose in May when the company refused to pull an altered video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., making it seem as though she was slurring her words.
Hampton previously ran a misleading Facebook ad that claimed Trump would be making Fox News host Sean Hannity his vice president. He was able to run it for a week straight before turning it off.
When Hampton initially registered as a candidate, he cited concerns about President Trump running false ads. He appeared to be responding to an ad that accused former Vice President Joe Biden of corruption. Facebook refused to remove the ad, prompting a wave of criticism.
YouTube have similarly been criticized for how they filter content. Facebook’s latest refusal will likely encourage even more calls for oversight of Silicon Valley. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., a leading presidential candidate, has called for the government to break up big tech companies like Facebook.
In October, she intentionally submitted a Facebook ad with false claims to expose the platform and similarly warn about Trump’s ads. Facebook approved the ad, although the ad copy itself admitted that it was false.
As for how long Hampton intends to keep this up, “the election is in 2022,” he said.