A political activist is running for governor of California — so that he can run deliberately false ads on Facebook.
On Monday, Adriel Hampton announced on Twitter that he had formally filed the paperwork to run for the top office in California in the 2022 election in an attempt to draw attention to Facebook's controversial political advertising policies.
The San Francisco resident is practically unknown in politics with virtually no chance of winning. But that's besides the point. By filling out a few forms and becoming an official candidate for governor, Hampton has earned the right to spread lies and misinformation via Facebook ads, a loophole he contends is to open to anyone.
Earlier this month, Facebook exempted politicians' advertisements from its broader rules that ban falsehoods in ads — effectively giving the all-clear to politicians and candidates for public office to spread deliberate falsehoods on Facebook's advertising platform without repercussions.
The decision has been intensely controversial, with Democrats in the US warning that it could impact the 2020 election, even as Zuckerberg defends the position on free speech grounds.
Hampton is now setting out to push the policy to its limits, by becoming a political candidate himself and paying for intentionally false political ads on Facebook.
—Adriel Hampton, #CAGov candidate 🦇 (@adrielhampton) October 28, 2019
Hampton, who also works in marketing, is something of a provocateur. He has already run one false ad on Facebook in recent weeks, which falsely claimed that Republican senator Lindsey Graham supports the Green New Deal. Facebook blocked that ad, but now he plans to run further false ads, using his political candidate status as a shield.
"It's incredibly simple. Anyone can do it. Facebook is f**ked. Or, we are going to win — they will have to change the policy," he told Business Insider.
His actions represent a fresh assault on Facebook's ad policy, which is facing increasingly widespread criticism. On Monday, The New York Times also reported that more than 250 Facebook employees had signed on to an internal letter calling on Facebook to fact-check political ads and make a number of other changes.
"I have been a Facebook advertiser for more than a decade, off and on. I've always had concerns about the platform, historically, but I think that its advertising has a lot of power, particularly in the political arena where people make decisions very emotionally," Hampton told Business Insider in an interview. "I just think that Donald Trump, and any politician should be held to the same rule as you or I — or except that as of today, I have the golden ticket. I can do whatever I want."
He shrugged off the concern that his ads could further damage democracy, saying: "I'm worried about fighting fire with fire, I'm worried about the policy." His total ad spend will only ever be a tiny fraction of Donald Trump's, he added.
It's not clear what Facebook's response will be once Hampton launches his new ads, and a spokesperson for the company did not respond to Business Insider's request for comment.
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