Mike Bloomberg’s Sponcon Memelords Won’t Be Subject To Facebook’s Political Ad Regulations

Facebook said Friday that it would not be adding sponsored posts that politicians commission from influencers to their public ad library, a tool that saves information about advertisements on the platform. Given the platform’s policy of not fact checking political ads, it’s also unclear whether the platform will fact check the posts.

The platform’s announcement about sponsored political content comes two days after a group of Instagram meme accounts, including @FuckJerry and @Tank.Sinatra, posted sponcon for Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York. Since April 2012, Facebook has owned Instagram.

Sponsored influencer posts created for politicians will be added to Facebook’s ad library if the influencer pays money to boost them as ads.

“After hearing from multiple campaigns, we agree that there’s a place for branded content in political discussion on our platforms,” a Facebook spokesperson told BuzzFeed News.

Facebook did not respond to questions about whether or not sponsored posts by influencers will be fact checked. Facebook exempts politicians from third-party fact-checking and allows them to post content that would otherwise be against community guidelines.

“After hearing from multiple campaigns, we agree that there’s a place for branded content in political discussion on our platforms”

Last September, as the country waited for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to announce a formal impeachment investigation into Trump, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs and communications, Nick Clegg — the former deputy prime minister of the United Kingdom — reiterated that Facebook would continue to exempt politicians from third-party fact-checking and allow them to post content that would otherwise be against community guidelines for normal users. Clegg’s announcement caused as much confusion as it was designed to quell.

“We do not submit speech by politicians to our independent fact-checkers, and we generally allow it on the platform even when it would otherwise breach our normal content rules,” Clegg said at the time. “Of course, there are exceptions. Broadly speaking they are twofold: where speech endangers people and where we take money, which is why we have more stringent rules on advertising than we do for ordinary speech and rhetoric.”

The Bloomberg meme campaign on Wednesday included many accounts with several million followers each, who have formed a company called “Meme 2020.” They are @MyTherapistSays, @WhitePeopleHumor, @TheFunnyIntrovert, @KaleSalad, @Sonny5ideUp, @Tank.Sinatra, @ShitheadSteve, @adam.the.creator, @moistbudda, @MrsDowJones, @TrashCanPaul, @cohmedy, @NeatDad, @FourTwenty, @GolfersDoingThings, @DrGrayFang, @MiddleClassFancy, and @DoYouEvenLift.

The @KaleSalad meme account is run by BuzzFeed employee Samir Mezrahi. The company allowed him to post the sponsored content as a member of its Creators Program, which allows some non-news employees to monetize their own social media channels.

“Branded content is different from advertising, but in either case we believe it’s important people know when they’re seeing paid content on our platforms,” the Facebook spokesperson said. “That’s why we have an Ad Library where anyone can see who paid for an ad and why we require creators to disclose any paid partnerships through our branded content tools.”

Facebook previously prohibited political entities from running branded content, but changed their guidelines because Facebook doesn’t provide payments as a feature of the branded content tool.

“Tank you’re a beautiful man, but this is an L,” @thefatjewish said.

The lead strategist for “Meme 2020” is reportedly Mick Purzycki, CEO of Jerry Media, the company behind @FuckJerry. @FuckJerry has been criticized for stealing memes — including in a copyright lawsuit that was later dropped — and helped promote the disastrous Fyre Festival. Buzzfeed News has reached out to @FuckJerry for comment.

The Bloomberg campaign’s use of meme accounts caused controversy. Josh Ostrovsky, who runs the account @thefatjewish, which is often compared to @FuckJerry, criticized @tank.sinatra in a comment on his post.

“Tank you’re a beautiful man, but this is an L,” @thefatjewish said.

Ostrovsky added that he had been approached to participate in the campaign, but declined, based on Bloomberg’s record.

“Mike Bloomberg 2020 has teamed up with social creators to collaborate with the campaign, including the meme world,” Bloomberg campaign spokesperson Sabrina Singh told BuzzFeed News. “While a meme strategy may be new to presidential politics, we’re betting it will be an effective component to reach people where they are and compete with President Trump’s powerful digital operation.”

Singh declined to comment on how much the campaign has paid for sponcon.

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