How-to prevent seeing political adverts on social media

Educating potential voters on a candidate’s political stance on key issues is crucial during the run up to an election. With over 3.8 billion people using social media in 2020, it is no surprise that politicians now view these channels as an important way to reach their audience.

And yet, for citizens, the number of political adverts appearing on their social media channels has quickly become overwhelming. In 2016, for example, during the US Presidential Election, candidates spent over $1.4bn on digital ads. The amount of influence digital adverts can have has since raised questions over whether a reduction of ads would infringe on free speech, what the potential is for the spread of misinformation, and if there are opportunities for abuse using these ads on social media.

To reduce criticism around the information in political adverts on social media, Facebook has decided it will ban US-based political ads indefinitely after the 2020 presidential election. The company is also taking steps to stop candidates from prematurely declaring victory. When the polls close, it will add an information box at the top of Facebook and Instagram’s apps to state that votes are still being counted.

However, if you’re not based in the US, or would like to turn your political adverts off on Facebook now, follow these steps:

Facebook

  1. Go to Settings & Privacy > Settings > Ads > Ad Preferences.
  2. Then tap Ad Topics > Social issues, elections or politics.
  3. Finally, select ‘See fewer ads about this topic’.

The process is also similar for turning off political ads on Instagram.

Instagram

  1. Go to your account settings
  2. Select ad topics
  3. Then choose ‘See fewer ads about social issues, elections and politics’.

Or, if you scroll past a political ad, you can tap where it says, ‘Paid for by’ and tap ‘See fewer ads like this’.

Snapchat

Unlike Facebook, Snapchat does fact check political ads before making them live on the platform. Ads supporting politicians or their causes are subject to review, under their advertising policy. However, it should be noted that as a Snapchat user, you can’t turn these adverts off.

If you do see a political advert that you’d rather not see again, you can flag that this is the case to Snapchat by clicking on the three vertical dots in the top right corner, then selecting the flag in the bottom left corner and finally tapping on ‘I just don’t want to see it’. This updates the algorithm Snapchat uses to provide you with adverts.

If you’d also like to learn more about what demographics Snapchat uses to target you with adverts you can go into Snapchat settings, and then into Ad Settings. Here you will see two options ‘Advert Preferences’ and ‘Lifestyle Preferences’, which give you some options about the ads you see. Any box that is ticked in the ‘Lifestyle Preferences’ section relates to interests Snapchat thinks you have. You can uncheck any of these boxes, if you’d prefer, but this will not stop you receiving adverts, they are just less likely to be personalised.

Lastly, it is worth noting that rival social networks, including TikTok, LinkedIn and Twitter, do not allow paid political ads.

If you want to read our previous posts on similar issues, visit the links below: