Donald Trump’s re-election campaign spent almost $20 million on Facebook advertising in 2019, alarming Democratic rivals, as the campaign takes advantage of the social media platform’s relatively lax political ad restrictions.
The money paid for more than 218,100 Facebook advertisements last year, the Guardian reported, outpacing Democratic foes in spending and volume on the platform. Tom Steyer led Democrats in spending on Facebook ads, with $16.8 million, while Pete Buttigieg came closest to matching Trump’s volume of advertisements, with 74,286 distinct ads last year.
The Guardian report likely may add to criticism that Facebook and other social media companies enable the spread of misleading information and false news. Facebook this month introduced a new policy that enables users to better control what ads they see but doesn’t limit how political ads are targeted. In contrast, Google announced that it would limit the microtargeting of political advertising and Twitter said it would ban political ads.
The Trump campaign didn’t come up with more than 200,000 unique messages. Instead, it ran hundreds of minor variations of distinct ads, according to the Guardian.
“Among the ads were some of the images and videos that made front-page news for their xenophobic, fear-mongering, vitriolic and outright false rhetoric,” the Guardian wrote. “But the campaign also ran a decidedly mundane social media campaign featuring classic marketing ploys designed to harvest user data.”
Trump ads ran on Facebook throughout the year, before ramping up as the impeachment inquiry gathered steam. The campaign’s biggest day of Facebook ad spending was Sept. 27, the day after the Ukraine whistleblower’s complaint was released, the newspaper said.
“Facebook’s business model is strictly to make money,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said at a press conference on Jan. 16. “They don’t care about the impact on children. They don’t care about the impact on truth. They don’t care about where this is all coming from, and they have said that even if they know it is not true, they will print it.”
Facebook’s recent decisions are seen as favoring Trump, according to more than a dozen Democratic operatives, campaign operatives and leaders of progressive groups interviewed by the Wall Street Journal.
Earlier this month the New York Times received and then released an internal memo by Andrew Bosworth, a longterm Facebook executive. Bosworth said the company’s platform was responsible for electing Trump president in 2016 because he ran “the single best digital ad campaign I have ever seen from any advertiser.” Bosworth, who said he had supported and donated to Hillary Clinton in that campaign, warned employees against using Facebook’s reach to hinder Trump’s reelection.
- Hillary Clinton accused Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg of being an “authoritarian” and predicted that the company is “going to reelect Trump,” The Atlantic reported.
- Nothing is keeping Facebook from spreading disinformation and the company is working with the Trump campaign to get him a second term, George Soros said on Jan. 23 at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
- Billionaire libertarian and Facebook board member Peter Thiel is seen as the person advising CEO Mark Zuckerberg as the company navigates policies on accepting political advertisements. Thiel backed Trump in 2016.