Pro-Trump PAC America First Action ran at least 397 ads on Facebook and Instagram since July 24 featuring a video that falsely suggests Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden supported efforts to defund the police. While Facebook finally removed many of the ads on August 4, a number of them had already run for over 10 days, earning more than 5.7 million impressions -- and the false information will still be allowed in other posts on the platform.
The false claim that Biden supports defunding the police has been repeatedly promoted by President Donald Trump and right-wing media, seemingly meant to inspire fear about supposedly radical policies among centrist voters.
The 15-second ad, from conservative super PAC America First Action, selectively edits a clip from Biden’s interview with liberal activist Ady Barkan. While the text on the screen reads, “Defund the police?,” Biden is seen on a TV saying, “Yes. Absolutely, yes.”
Using Facebook Ad data from the Dewey Square Adwatch tool set, Media Matters found 397 ads that America First Action PAC ran with versions of the misleading video since July 24. The PAC spent at least $87,900 on these ads, most of which specifically targeted Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania -- states which are part of Trump’s reported priority list. At the time of publication, at least 17 of the ads are still active on Facebook.
Facebook has repeatedly allowed political ads with misinformation to run on its platform. In fact, Media Matters has previously reported on hundreds of Facebook ads with misinformation and hate speech from the Trump campaign, including 529 ads with false claims of voter fraud and 88 ads with an infamous Nazi symbol; and hundreds of misleading ads from pro-Trump PACs, including Judicial Watch and The Committee to Defend the President.
Facebook has reportedly considered banning political ads leading up to the 2020 U.S. election, but that move wouldn’t prevent organic posts containing political misinformation from spreading on the platform.
Case in point: Even though Facebook removed America First Action PAC’s ads after they were fact-checked and labeled as false information, a Facebook spokesperson reportedly told Fox News that “the videos can, instead, run as original content on the group's page.”