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Andrea Austria / Media Matters

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Ahead of the 2022 midterms, Meta is earning revenue from political ads with claims debunked by its third-party fact-checkers

These ads, which seemingly violate the company’s stated policies, have earned Meta over $130,000 and garnered over 5 million impressions

  • As the only major social media company allowing political ads ahead of the midterm elections, Meta is letting right-wing politicians and organizations seemingly violate its advertising policies by running dozens of ads with misinformation that has been rated false by the platform’s third-party fact-checkers. 

    Despite its failure to secure its platforms during the 2020 elections, Meta has already rolled back several of its election protection measures and transparency tools leading up to the 2022 midterms. The company will be repeating its 2020 measure prohibiting new political ads in the week before Election Day to allow “additional time for scrutiny of issue, electoral, and political ads.” While new ads cannot be created during this restriction period, Meta notes that if an ad earns any impressions (the number of times the ad appeared on users' screens) “before the restriction period goes into effect, candidates running for office and other organizations can continue running these ads through the restriction period to share their closing arguments and mobilize voters.”

    Meta’s advertising policies state that the company does “not allow advertisers to run ads that contain content that has been debunked by third-party fact-checkers, including content rated false, partly false, altered or missing context.” But in advance of Meta’s restriction period, Media Matters has identified at least 36 ads about social issues, elections, or politics created in 2022 containing claims that PolitiFact -- one of the independent third party fact-checkers used by Meta -- has rated as either “false” or “mostly false.” Together, these ads have garnered over 5 million impressions and earned Meta more than $130,000 in revenue. 

    Media Matters has identified ads thats contain the following “false” or “mostly false” claims, according to PolitiFact:

  • “Mostly false”: Democratic senators voted against the Keystone pipeline, causing higher gas prices 

  • At least 8 ads from the pages for the conservative super PAC Saving Arizona PAC and from Georgia Republican Senate nominee Herschel Walker have run on Meta’s platforms making this claim. PolitiFact rated it “mostly false,” noting that gas prices were already rising in 2021 while the pipeline was still in progress and that “its status had no connection to the rise or fall in gasoline prices.

  • Two screenshots of ads from Herschel Walker and Saving Arizona PAC making claims about the Keystone Pipeline
  • “False”: Democrats stopped domestic drilling for oil, which caused gasoline prices to go up

  • At least one ad from Herschel Walker makes this claim. PolitiFact rated this claim as “false,” noting that the president has “little control over gasoline prices, which are determined by the global market,” and that “Biden never tried to bar all domestic drilling.”

  • Video file

    Citation Ad paid for by Team Herschel Inc. that ran on Meta’s platforms between July 19 and July 34, 2022

  • “Mostly false”: Wisconsin Democratic Senate nominee Mandela Barnes has said he is in favor of “abortion up until the moment of birth”

  • At least 3 ads from anti-abortion PAC National Right to Life Victory Fund, conservative super PAC Restoration of America, and the right-wing organization Media Research Center have run on Meta platforms making this claim. PolitiFact rated it as “mostly false,” explaining that the National Republican Senatorial Committee failed to provide evidence to back up this claim and a spokesperson for Barnes confirmed that “Lt. Governor Barnes does not support abortion up until birth.” 

  • Three screenshots of ads making claims about Barnes wanting abortion until birth
  • “False”: “The Electronic Registration Information Center is 'a system that’s funded by George Soros'”

  • Arizona state representative, Republican nominee for secretary of state, and 2020 election denier Mark Finchem ran 3 ads on Meta platforms that contained footage of the rally at which he made this claim. PolitiFact rated it as “false,” noting that the Electronic Registration Information Center received funding when it was started in 2012 from Pew Charitable Trusts, and that “a Soros organization gave money to Pew between 2009 and 2011, but it was for a separate, unrelated project.”

  • Video file

    Citation Ad paid for by Finchem for Secretary of State that ran on Meta’s platforms between October 21 and October 27, 2022

  • “Mostly false”: Pennsylvania Democratic Senate nominee John Fetterman “wants to release one-third of dangerous criminals”

  • At least 3 ads from Fetterman’s opponent, Republican Senate nominee Mehmet Oz, make this claim. PolitiFact rated it as “mostly false,” noting that while Fetterman agreed in the past that it would be possible to reduce Pennsylvania’s prison population by one-third without a risk to public safety, he “has not called for releasing one-third of dangerous criminals.”

  • Video file

    Citation Ad paid for by Doctor Oz For Senate that started running on Meta’s platforms October 5, 2022

  • “Mostly false”: Fetterman wants to “eliminate life sentences for murderers”

  • A combined 13 ads from the Law Enforcement For A Safer America PAC, American Leadership Action PAC, and the Republican Senate Leadership Fund super PAC make this claim. One ad from the Senate Leadership Fund has been removed for violating Meta’s policies, however 4 ads that make the same claim remain. PolitiFact rated it as “mostly false,” explaining that Fetterman has “has called for reversing Pennsylvania’s law that mandates life-without-parole sentences for second-degree murder, or so-called felony murder, for defendants who are accessories in a killing” but has never called to “eliminate life sentences for murderers.”

  • Three screenshots of ads making claims that Fetterman wants to eliminate life sentences for murders
  • “False”: Democratic House candidate Hillary Scholten "dismissed the destruction and praised the rioters” following 2020 protests

  • At least 5 ads from GOP super PAC the Congressional Leadership Fund make this claim. PolitiFact rated it as “false,” noting that the claim is based on “Scholten’s support for another Facebook post” which did not directly praise or dismiss the actions of the protesters; instead, Scholten shared the post and wrote that she was “praying for peace and working for justice.”

  • Screenshots of ads containing claims about Hillary Scholten