A San Francisco man is going to extreme lengths to call out Facebook’s controversial policy of allowing politicians to run false ads on its platform. On Monday morning, he registered as a candidate in California’s 2022 gubernatorial election — not with the primary goal of becoming governor, but so he can run false Facebook ads of his own.
Facebook allows politicians, including candidates for public office, to run ads on its platform that are not fact-checked. That policy has drawn criticism from Democrats who say it will help President Trump’s re-election campaign. Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign wrote to Facebook asking the company to remove a false ad the Trump campaign ran about Biden and Ukraine earlier this month. Facebook denied Biden’s request.
Adriel Hampton, a political activist who runs his own marketing firm in San Francisco, registered at his local post office on Monday morning as a candidate for governor of California.
Hampton told CNN Business that he will use his new status as a candidate to run false ads on Facebook about President Trump, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and other Facebook executives. He said he also plans to run false ads on Facebook about executives of Twitter, which also has a policy of not fact-checking ads run by candidates.
His goal is to force Facebook to stop allowing politicians to run false ads.
On Monday, The New York Times reported that hundreds of Facebook employees had recently signed a letter to Mark Zuckerberg also decrying the policy. Commenting on the letter, a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement to CNN Business, “Facebook’s culture is built on openness so we appreciate our employees voicing their thoughts on this important topic. We remain committed to not censoring political speech, and will continue exploring additional steps we can take to bring increased transparency to political ads.”
The ad spliced together different audio of Graham speaking to make it sound like he said, “Simply put, we believe in the Green New Deal.” Graham never said that.
The ad was eventually flagged by Facebook’s fact-checkers and was removed. While Facebook allows politicians to lie in ads, it does not allow PACs or other political groups to do so.
Hampton hopes that by being a candidate he will be able to run false ads without Facebook stopping him.
“The genesis of this campaign is social media regulation and to ensure there is not an exemption in fact-checking specifically for politicians like Donald Trump who like to lie online,” he told CNN Business.
Hampton unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 2009, but was credited at the time as being the first congressional candidate to announce his campaign on Twitter.
“I think social media is incredibly powerful,” he said Monday. “I believe that Facebook has the power to shift elections.”
Hampton said he anticipates his campaign will start accepting donations to run false ads and even suggested others could join him in his quest to call-out Facebook. “It is actually easy to file to run for office and basically 100 people could do what I just did,” he said.
While his main motivation for running for governor at the moment is to run Facebook ads, Hampton suggested his campaign could become a fully fledged gubernatorial campaign. “Don’t count me out,” he said.
Contacted by CNN Business, Facebook did not immediately have any comment on Hampton’s run.