Despite Facebook’s policy against manipulated media in ads, President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign ran thousands of Facebook ads in the last three months that feature manipulated photos of Democratic candidate Joe Biden. Over 2,500 ads feature images in which Biden’s coloring and facial features have been edited to make him appear older, while more than a thousand other ads were edited to add an earpiece to images of Biden while accusing him of possibly cheating during the debate.
Facebook has a policy prohibiting misleading manipulated media in posts and political ads, though it does not always enforce this policy; the policy says the platform intends to remove content featuring “manipulation [that] isn’t apparent and could mislead.” While Facebook has removed several of Trump’s ads that utilized manipulated images, thousands still remain.
Media Matters found at least 2,531 ads in the Facebook Ad Library published by the Trump campaign that have images that were edited to discolor Biden and make him appear older. These ads have earned over 17.2 million interactions. Before running the ads with manipulated images, the Trump campaign published ads with unedited versions of some of the images.
There are also 1,139 ads featuring Biden with an earpiece that has been added to the image. The Trump campaign ran these ads, which earned at least 4.7 million impressions, in September while the campaign and right-wing media baselessly accused Biden of wearing an earpiece during the first presidential debate.
These latest ads with manipulated photos join a longer list of ads with misinformation that Facebook allowed on its platform. Media Matters has previously reported on hundreds of ads published by the Trump campaign, pro-Trump organizations, and political action committees that contain voting misinformation, false information about Biden, and hate speech.
Amid criticism that Facebook isn’t doing enough to mitigate the spread of political disinformation, the platform has said that it plans to ban new political ads from being accepted in the week before the election. However, this ban falls short and doesn’t apply to the thousands of ads that are already in its ad library, including the Trump campaign’s edited photos of Biden.
Here are manipulated ads that Media Matters has identified:
Facebook ads with edited photos of Biden that make him look older and discolored
Media Matters identified at least five images that appear to be edited. The more than 2,500 ads featuring these images, which first appeared in August 2020, have earned at least 17.2 million impressions and could earn millions more as some of the ads are still active.
The images have also run with at least five different variations of text, including text encouraging people to vote early, attacking the “extreme radical left” and “fake news media,” and calling Biden “too old & out of it to be president.”
Although all the ads were funded by either Donald J. Trump For President Inc. or the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, they ran on eight campaign-affiliated pages:
- Donald J. Trump
- Team Trump
- Trump for Arizona
- Trump For Iowa
- Trump For Michigan
- Trump For Minnesota
- Trump For Nebraska
- Trump for Ohio
Facebook ads editing an earpiece into Biden’s ear
Media Matters identified more than 1,100 ads that depict Biden with an earpiece that appears to have been added to the image. The ads, which earned over 4.7 million impressions, were funded by the Trump Make America Great Again Committee and ran on Donald J. Trump and Team Trump, which are two campaign-affiliated Facebook pages.