Joe Biden’s campaign has slammed Facebook and raised the question of whether President Donald Trump was receiving an “unfair, partisan advantage” on the platform after apparent technical issues prevented the Democrat from fundraising just days before the election.
The Biden campaign said in a statement it had lost out on over $500,000 in potential fundraising on Facebook throughout the last full week of the election cycle, describing the platform as “unprepared” for its role in the national vote — despite becoming such a controversial key player in the 2016 election.
Rob Flaherty, digital director for the former vice president’s campaign, said in a statement on Thursday: “We find ourselves 5 days out from Election Day unable to trust that our ads will run properly, or if our opponents are being given an unfair, partisan advantage.”
He added: “It is currently unclear to us whether or not Facebook is giving Donald Trump an unfair electoral advantage in this particular instance, but it is abundantly clear that Facebook was wholly unprepared to handle this election despite having four years to prepare."
Facebook told CNN the issues which prevented Mr Biden’s campaign from releasing ads seeking donations also impacted President Donald Trump’s campaign, and were the result of a change in the social media company’s political advertising policies.
To put the FB issues into context, Trump is running ads that say that Biden's tax plan will cause a 14% increase for middle class families and our ad that clarifies that he won't raise taxes on anyone making <$400K is currently rejected on certain key targeting tracks pic.twitter.com/FnKQraXfAd
— Megan Clasen (@MeganClasen) October 29, 2020
But the change in policy, made for the final week of the US election, was just part of the problem, according to Facebook.
The company also blamed the campaign for not understanding its instruction surrounding the new policies.
In a statement, Facebook said “no ad was paused or rejected by a person, or because of any partisan consideration”.
“Even though the majority of political and issue ads have been unaffected, since the restriction took effect, we have identified a number of unanticipated issues affecting campaigns of both political parties,” the company wrote in its blog. “Some were technical problems. Others were because advertisers did not understand the instructions we provided about when and how to make changes to ad targeting. We have implemented changes to fix these issues, and most political ads are now running without any problems."
Facebook and other prominent social media platforms have been the subject of intense scrutiny since the last presidential elections, with CEOs like the company’s Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey being summoned to Capitol Hill to discuss how they were combatting everything from foreign interference to misinformation surrounding Democratic elections.
The “technical glitch” did not just disrupt the campaigns: reports indicated Democratic and GOP fundraising arms were also impacted throughout the week, including Priorities USA Action, one of the largest Democratic super PACs in the country.
The group said an estimated 600 advertisements were removed for two days this week for key battleground states like Arizona and North Carolina, Politico reported.
Priorities USA Chairman Guy Cecil said in a statement: “The last two days demonstrate a refusal to act responsibly without public pressure.”
He added: “While we are one of the largest spenders on digital ads in either party, it should not take a public campaign and endless calls to get Facebook to act. This is much harder for the many smaller organizations that are working to combat misinformation and voter suppression that do not have the connections and resources of a large group like ours.”