Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, prohibits ads with content debunked by its third-party fact checkers — but a new Media Matters review found 36 ads promoting 2000 Mules, far-right propagandist Dinesh D’Souza’s new film filled with debunked election fraud misinformation and conspiracy theories.
Earlier this week, D’Souza released his new film, 2000 Mules, based on the false claims that there was widespread fraud in the 2020 election. D’Souza's film specifically focuses on a conspiracy theory that people were paid to traffic illegal ballots, a false narrative that has gained traction over the last several months as a result of the online efforts of several major right-wing outlets and personalities, including D’Souza himself. This conspiracy theory of ballot trafficking by “mules” has even been thoroughly debunked by two of Meta’s third-party fact checkers — The Associated Press and PolitiFact.
Meta has claimed numerous times that it has worked to prevent the spread of election-related misinformation on its platforms. Despite these promises from Meta and its policies against misinformation, Media Matters has found at least 36 ads on Facebook and Instagram promoting D'Souza's new film spreading debunked lies about the 2020 election. These ads -- which were paid for by a mix of conservative media outlets, political candidates, and public figures -- earned at least 193,000 combined impressions and earned Meta up to $7,000 in revenue, according to data from the Dewey Square Adwatch tool set.
Half of the ads were run by right-wing media outlets and politicians:
- Kevin Grindlay, a Republican candidate for Georgia state Senate, created an ad claiming that he found the film “very validating.”
- Robert J. Borer, a Republican candidate for Nebraska secretary of state, promoted a premiere watch party of the film, which he hosted.
- Dorothy Moon, Republican member of the Idaho House of Representatives and candidate for Idaho secretary of state, published two ads promoting local screenings of the film.
- Karoline Leavitt, Republican candidate for New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District, paid for 9 ads promoting the film as well as her petition demanding Congress investigate the 2020 election.
- Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA), who is a Republican candidate for Georgia secretary of state, paid for an ad which mentions “the anticipated movie '2,000 Mules’” and claims that illegal ballot harvesting occured in Georgia.
- The Daily Signal, a news website owned by conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation, was responsible for one ad linking to an article promoting the film and its “vivid proof of voter fraud.”
- The Published Reporter, a right-wing outlet that has been responsible for ads promoting misinformation in the past, ran one ad promoting D’Souza’s film.
This is not the first time Meta has failed to enforce its own policies while profiting from ads containing election misinformation.
Media Matters previously reported on Facebook earning at least $66,200 from ads urging supporters to sign petitions to “decertify” the 2020 presidential election. We also documented Facebook earning at least $9,600 on ads from former President Donald Trump’s PACs despite his continued ban from the platform, including ads containing election misinformation, such as claims that the “election was tainted” in 2020 or that Trump is “the true president.”