Joe Biden’s campaign has massively ramped up its spending on Facebook advertisements in June, even as it wages a public relations war against the tech giant for allegedly allowing the Trump campaign to peddle "misinformation" through paid ads.
The Biden campaign spent $4.7 million on Facebook ads over the past week, according to records published by the social media platform—more than it spent in the entirety of 2019.
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As Biden pours money into Facebook postings, he has also ramped up a pressure campaign aimed at changing the website’s advertising policy to squelch false information from being circulated in pro-Trump political ads. His campaign website is urging supporters to sign its petition calling for stricter fact checking at the company and published an open letter to founder Mark Zuckerberg claiming that other politicians are using the platform to "spread fear and misleading information." The spending indicates how reliant the campaign is on the social media platform for voter outreach, despite Biden's criticism.
"I am calling on you to make clear rules—applied to everyone, including Donald Trump—that prohibit threatening behavior and the spread of misinformation," Biden said on his website.
"After foreign operatives and rightwing trolls used Facebook to hack the 2016 election, Facebook vowed ‘never again’ and promised to take action. But with fewer than 5 months until the 2020 election, Facebook seems to be on a crash course to let the same mistakes happen again."
Biden also asked supporters to sign a "petition" his campaign drafted against Facebook and encouraged them to "slide into Facebook’s DMs and ask what they are doing."
Biden’s spending on Facebook ads has skyrocketed in recent weeks, with the New York Times reporting that the campaign spent a record-breaking $1.6 million in a single day last week.
One recent Biden ad claimed that Trump "won't deliver anything more than Twitter tantrums and self-serving photos that require unleashing tear-gas and rubber bullets on peaceful protestors to get." The comment is a reference to a June incident in which the U.S. Park Police cleared protesters from a park near the White House shortly before President Trump walked through the area to give a speech.
The U.S. Park Police disputed the accuracy of some of the claims Biden makes in the ad, including the characterization of the protesters as "peaceful."
"At approximately 6:33 pm, violent protesters on H Street NW began throwing projectiles including bricks, frozen water bottles and caustic liquids," the National Park Service said in a statement on June 2. "The protesters also climbed onto a historic building at the north end of Lafayette Park that was destroyed by arson days prior. Intelligence had revealed calls for violence against the police, and officers found caches of glass bottles, baseball bats, and metal poles hidden along the street."
The agency also claimed "officers then employed the use of smoke canisters and pepper balls. No tear gas was used by USPP officers or other assisting law enforcement partners to close the area at Lafayette Park."
Many of Biden’s paid posts appear to be aimed at collecting names and addresses of potential supporters, according to a review of Facebook’s public ad database.
One of Biden’s most frequent ads asks supporters to sign a petition to "condemn Donald Trump" for promoting "white supremacy and hatred in our country."
One version of the post, which started running on June 6, says that "over 800,000 Americans have already" signed the petition, but more were needed to reach the goal of 2.5 million signatures "before midnight." A second version, which started running three days later, claimed that 623,000 people had signed the petition.
Two other ads, which have run for multiple days, claim that the campaign needs "83 more Americans to speak out before 11:59 p.m. tonight" by answering a survey question and that Biden needs to raise "another $1,027 before midnight."
The Biden campaign did not respond to a request for comment.