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E&C Democrats Demand Accountability for Facebook’s Advertising Practices in Light of Attack on the Capitol

Mar 8, 2021
Press Release

Twenty-three Energy and Commerce Committee Democrats wrote to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg today demanding answers for Facebook’s advertising practices, which reports show promoted violence and disinformation both leading up to and after the violent insurrection at the United States Capitol.

The letter was signed by Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), and Reps. Bobby L. Rush (D-IL), Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), Diana DeGette (D-CO), Mike Doyle (D-PA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Doris Matsui (D-CA), Kathy Castor (D-FL), Jerry McNerney (D-CA), Peter Welch (D-VT), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Marc Veasey (D-TX), Robin Kelly (D-IL), Donald McEachin (D-VA), Lisa Blunt-Rochester (D-DE), Darren Soto (D-FL), Kathleen M. Rice (D-NY), Angie Craig (D-MN), Lori Trahan (D-MA), and Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX).

“According to recent troubling reports, Facebook ran ads showing gun accessories and protective equipment next to content that amplified election misinformation. Furthermore, similar advertising was shown next to news about the Capitol siege after January 6. Targeting ads in this way is dangerous and has the potential to encourage acts of violence,” the lawmakers wrote.

The lawmakers acknowledged Facebook’s move to temporarily ban ads that “promote[d] weapons accessories and protective equipment in the U.S.” through January 22, but said more must be done, as the country continues to face a threat from violent domestic extremists. In fact, there has been little indication of how Facebook is now addressing the targeting and placement of these types of ads.

“With more than 100 million daily Facebook users in the United States, it is paramount that Facebook take responsibility for where it places advertisements and what those advertisements promote,” the lawmakers continued in their letter to Zuckerberg. “Furthermore, Facebook should inform advertisers about surrounding content, and make the necessary changes to guarantee that Facebook and companies’ ad dollars are not further supporting or sowing seeds of hate and distrust throughout the country.”

Citing the need for transparency regarding Facebook’s advertising practices and its influence on users, the lawmakers demanded answers to a wide series of questions, including:

  • What steps does Facebook plan to take to ensure that advertisements for weapons or other tactical military equipment are not targeted in a manner that jeopardizes public safety?
  • What procedures and processes does Facebook have in place for reviewing the audience of these types of advertisements?
  • Does Facebook have dedicated staff to monitor and approve the targeting of advertisements for weapons or military equipment on its platform?
  • Are companies whose advertisements appear on Facebook aware or notified that their ads are being placed next to content that includes misinformation, disinformation, violence, hate speech, or voter suppression?
  • Have any companies expressed concerns regarding the placement of their advertisements next to content that includes misinformation, disinformation, violence, hate speech, or voter suppression

Read the full letter to Facebook HERE.