Facebook Has Run an Ad Falsely Claiming Sean Hannity Is Trump’s New Running Mate for Almost a Week

November 26, 2019, 10:45 PM UTC

When Adriel Hampton declared his candidacy for governor of California last month, he set out to test the limits of Facebook’s policy that allows politicians to lie in ads. It turns out there are none.

Hampton says he is still running a Facebook ad that he took out last Thursday, which claims to show a group called “Evangelicals for Pence” reacting to Hampton’s intentionally fabricated news that President Trump has replaced Mike Pence with Sean Hannity on the Republican’s 2020 presidential ticket.

“Evangelicals are devastated as signs point to Donald J. Trump replacing Mike Pence with Sean Hannity on the 2020 Republican ticket,” the ad says, along with a video ad from the fake group expressing their disappointment.

The fact that the ad has run for nearly a week without being taken down runs counter to Facebook’s statement last month that Hampton’s ads would be eligible for third-party fact checking, unlike other people running for office, since “he registered as a candidate to get around our policies.”

“I am not surprised,” Hampton tells Fortune. “They appear determined to not limit Trump’s use of the platform, even if it means letting me lie, too.”

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Fortune.

Hampton says he has spent $51 on the advertisement so far, and did not micro target it to any specific groups, instead allowing it to be seen by voters nationwide. As of Tuesday afternoon, the ad was seen by 6,427 unique voters around the U.S.

Of those who saw the ad, 51% were men age 55 and older, according to details in Facebook’s searchable advertising library. The database allows anyone to see which ads a person or group has run, along with an estimate of the ad budget, where the ad was shown, and a breakdown of the age groups and gender of those who saw it.

Facebook has stood firm on its policy not to fact-check political ads. The issue of letting politicians to lie in ads hit a nerve in October, after Facebook refused to remove a Trump ad that falsely claimed Joe Biden abused his position as vice president to influence policy in Ukraine to benefit his son’s business dealings.

Hampton also pointed to an ad the Trump campaign is currently running that claims the “impeachment results” are in and that House Democrats voted to impeach the president. That vote has not happened.

According to Facebook’s Ad Library, the advertisement (or one with the same wording) has been run at least 714 times by the Trump Make America Great Again Committee dating back to Nov. 1. The current active version of the ad cost up to $1,000 and has been seen by between 15,000 and 20,000 Facebook users. More than 75% of the ad’s audience has been older than 55 years old, and 26% of them are men over 65.

Critics say the issue of misleading ads is made even worse since politicians can micro-target people they want to see their advertisements, making it very different than the shared experience of seeing an advertisement on television. Political ads are treated differently than commercial ads on Facebook, which are subjected to fact checkers and are required to be truthful.

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