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Facebook to ban new political ads week before election

Yahoo Finance’s Rick Newman joins Zack Guzman to discuss how Facebook hopes to dissuade public criticism by banning political ads the week before the election.

Video Transcript

ZACK GUZMAN: And one of the names I want to highlight right now is Facebook. We're seeing shares off more than 4% today in the afternoon trade, following an interesting about face in terms of ad policy there. After much controversy and scrutiny being suffered by CEO Mark Zuckerberg around his election policies, the company announced a ban on new political ads for the week leading up to Election Day here in the US, and the fact that it will remove posts that try to suppress or discourage voting.

For more on that, we're joined by Yahoo Finance's Rick Newman. And Rick, I mean, Mark Zuckerberg has been pretty adamant about not caving to political pressures here to get ads off. I guess it's a change if you're talking about the week leading up to the election. But is that enough?

RICK NEWMAN: I think your skepticism is valid, Zack. It's pretty narrow. I mean, I guess you could say it's better than nothing. But it's pretty narrow.

So any ads that are already running on Facebook before that, we get to that one-week window before the election, they can continue to run. What Facebook is saying is they're just not going to take new ads in that period of time. And I guess what they're thinking is there could be some efforts to basically dissuade people from voting right at the last minute. And that's what they want to prevent.

And, of course, they also want to prevent any public criticism that they played a role in the election outcome, as they-- as we now know they did in 2016. So a fairly narrow ban on political ads here.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, and when we talk about the fears, though, in this note from Mark Zuckerberg, he also highlighted that this is not going to be business as usual, and the fact that there is an increased risk of civil unrest. And I think that that's important to note here, when we think about half of the country, how divided we are right now-- half the country is not going to be happy with the results that come on Election Day. What does that maybe say about maybe some of the concessions here and the realization on Zuckerberg's part that some of this could lead to some very scary outcomes?

RICK NEWMAN: Well, if you're Facebook, I think very clearly, you don't want to be associated with either side in the election, because then you end up alienating the other half, as you pointed out, and just becoming a target for criticism and who knows else. So Facebook, if you just go back to the history here, Facebook was unaware of everything the Russians and others were doing on its platform in 2016. And even a month after the election, Mark Zuckerberg said it was ridiculous to think that Facebook had any role. And now we know that there were these Russian groups that were basically trying to dissuade Democrats from getting out to vote.

So Facebook-- what I keep thinking about, Facebook is clearly fighting the last war here. And the question is is that still the battlefield? Is the battlefield still the way it was in 2016? Are the tactics that the Russians and anybody else who might be trying to influence the election, are those tactics the same? If they have different tactics, does Facebook have the capability to detect them?

Facebook's, their radars are clearly tuned into everything they think might be happening. But I think you could say they're-- what they're actually doing about it is fairly targeted and somewhat limited at this point.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, and let's don't forget, we're only about a couple months removed from that advertising boycott--

RICK NEWMAN: We're inside two months.

ZACK GUZMAN: --on the platform.

RICK NEWMAN: We're inside two months, man.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, they're already-- it's only been two months since we saw that advertiser boycott about them not doing enough. We'll see if this is enough to appease a lot of those critics of Mark Zuckerberg. But we'll see what happens. Rick Newman, appreciate you bringing us that.