The fate of the United States Senate will be determined by two Georgia runoffs scheduled for less than two months from now — and Democrats say Facebook and Google are already screwing it up.
The two companies have been temporarily blocking all political ads from running on their platforms since Election Day. But the ad ban didn't account for the fact that the races for both of Georgia's senate seats would end in runoffs — one between Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock, and another between Republican Sen. David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff. Now, Democrats say the ad ban is costing Warnock and Ossoff critical days for both fundraising and getting the word out about the races.
"There is no replacing missed high-leverage moments in online fundraising. And ads are a HUGE part of that. Every day @Facebook and @Google wait to turn ads back on they cost @ReverendWarnock a huge number of donations AND volunteers," Tim Tagaris, former digital fundraising director for Sen. Bernie Sanders' 2016 campaign, tweeted Monday. "A big gift to self-funding Kelly Loeffler."
"The biggest challenge is that Democrats are focused on Georgia right now, and our candidates lack the most critical means to engage supporters and raise funds," said one Democratic digital strategist involved in the runoffs. "Early money will allow those campaigns to plan." The strategist was hopeful that ad functionality would turn back on "in time for most of the in-state messaging."
Google declined to comment for this story, and Facebook didn't respond to Protocol's request for comment. It's unclear when either company will turn its spigot back on or whether they'll create an exception for the Georgia races.
This is not the first dustup about ad bans between Democrats and social media platforms. The week before the election, Facebook instituted a ban on any new political ads, which ended up taking down a wide array of political ads that were already running, some of which didn't get turned back on for days. The screwup inspired President-elect Biden's digital director Rob Flaherty and others to lash out at Facebook. "It is abundantly clear Facebook was wholly unprepared for this election despite having four years to prepare," Flaherty wrote in a statement at the time.
Both Facebook and Google decided to prohibit ads after Election Day in hopes of preventing anyone from using ads to undermine the election results. Not to be deterred, President Trump and his followers have just been doing that through regular old organic posts instead.