Republican operatives sidestep Facebook policies ahead of Georgia runoff

As the Georgia runoff election nears, Facebook’s messy political ad rules have created new opportunities for operatives and political groups looking to spread disinformation. In the weeks leading up to Tuesday’s election, Republican super PACs have used Facebook to spread disinformation targeting Georgia voters in the last few critical days before the state’s special election on Tuesday, January 5th.

In one instance, the Republican Party wrongly accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris of conspiring to remove President-elect Joe Biden from office in a Facebook ad, according to The Washington Post. The Senate Leadership Fund has also run false ads suggesting that Democratic Senate candidate Jon Ossoff would “defund the police,” despite the candidate refusing to support such a position.

Republican super PAC American Crossroads has run several dishonest ads about Democratic Senate candidate Raphael Warnock over the last few weeks, according to Popular Information. In one example, the PAC published an ad of Warnock saying “God damn America,” framing it as if he was making an un-American statement. However, the clip came from a 2013 speech in which Warnock was quoting a noted speech from Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Facebook later removed the ad, according to a tweet from spokesperson Andy Stone.

Facebook’s political advertising policies have also led to misleading fundraising outside of Georgia. The week before the November presidential election, Facebook shut down the ability for advertisers to submit new political ads for approval. On December 16th, Facebook started allowing authorized advertisers to run ads for the Georgia runoff election. With most other political advertising still shut down, lawmakers like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) ran ads allegedly raising money for Georgia’s Republican Senate candidates. But The Daily Beast reported last week that money accrued from those ads was going directly to Cruz. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) were also found to have fundraised through this advertising loophole.

With control of the Senate hanging in the balance, the runoff election appears to be a dead heat, with nearly all final polls projecting 1 percent margins between candidates.

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