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Facebook will lift temporary political ad ban in Georgia with control of Senate still in play

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Key Points
  • Facebook is lifting its temporary post-election ban on political ads on Wednesday in the state of Georgia only.
  • Georgia is holding a runoff election on Jan. 5 that will decide which party controls the Senate.
  • The company had put a temporary pause on electoral, political and social issue ads in the U.S. to try to prevent confusion or abuse on its platform.
Johanna Geron | Reuters

Facebook is lifting its temporary post-election ban on political ads on Wednesday in the state of Georgia only, as the state prepares for its Jan. 5 runoff election that will determine which party takes control of the Senate.

Facebook said in a blog post Tuesday that the decision to lift the ban in Georgia came after hearing feedback that candidates and other groups wanted the option to advertise on Facebook to reach voters ahead of the runoff.

"We agree that our ad tools are an important way for people to get information about these elections," Facebook's Sarah Schiff wrote in the blog post. "So we have developed a process to allow advertisers to run ads with the purpose of reaching voters in Georgia about Georgia's runoff elections."

The change comes ahead of Georgia's runoff races, in which Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler will challenge Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, respectively. As of now, Republicans will hold a 50-48 majority in the Senate in January. If Democrats win both of the Georgia runoff races, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would be the tiebreaking vote, giving the party unified control of the White House and Congress. If Republicans keep just one seat, the GOP will retain control of the Senate.

Facebook says it will let advertisers authorized to run ads on social issues, elections and politics to run ads in Georgia. It said it will prioritize onboarding advertisers with "direct involvement in these elections," and will reject ads that target locations outside Georgia. It will also said it will continue to prohibit ads that include content debunked by third-party fact-checkers or that delegitimizes the Georgia runoff elections. 

The company had put a temporary pause on electoral, political and social issue ads in the U.S. to try to prevent confusion or abuse on its platform, it had previously said, according to emails viewed by CNBC. 

Facebook announced in October it would stop running political ads in the U.S. after polls closed for the 2020 election on Nov. 3. But with runoffs for both of Georgia's Senate seats, groups weren't able to turn to Facebook to run ads for fundraising or otherwise.

In November, Facebook director of product management Rob Leathern said on Twitter that the company was aware people were disappointed it wasn't enabling ads for runoff elections in Georgia, but said the company did not "have the technical ability in the short term to enable political ads by state or by advertiser."

The company didn't immediately return a request for comment on what had changed to spur the decision.

Advertisers told CNBC last month the temporary ban was preventing groups from raising money from supporters around the country and from educating voters ahead of runoffs, and was also going to impact year-end fundraising for nonprofits that deal with social issues. 

Google lifted its own temporary pause on elections-related advertising last week. The company had banned those ads for a period of time in an attempt to prevent potential exploitation or misinformation via advertising since it expected delayed election results.

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