Facebook’s New Political Ad Policy May Shut Out the Undocumented Community

Lead Photo: Photo by Manuel Breva Colmeiro / Moment
Photo by Manuel Breva Colmeiro / Moment
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As Facebook intends to put a stop to foreign interference in United States elections, it may do so at the expense of the undocumented community. Facebook recently announced that it will now require those buying political ads to provide documentation. The social media platform may be looking to keep fake news off our timelines – in 2016 Russia-backed posts made their way to millions of Americans – but as others have pointed out, this new policy bars the undocumented community – people who may not have citizenship but who are affected by the outcome of our elections.

The new policy calls for political ad purchasers to have a Social Security number and a US passport or driver’s license. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients – that is, those who arrived in the United States at an early age and have protection from deportation – who have both of these things will be able to buy ads. But this is just a small sliver of the undocumented community, which is comprised of roughly 11 million people. “This is Facebook telling undocumented people you’re not allowed to participate in this part of the political process,” said Justino Mora, co-founder of UndocuMedia, to The Guardian. “They are essentially banning a certain political view from being expressed … They are going to allow anti-immigrant xenophobes and racists to have more power.”

 Mora who has purchased ads said they have the power to inform and educate people, but that even without these policies, he has struggled to get the message out organically in the past. Facebook, for its part, has acknowledged that there are shortcoming to this system. “We fully understand that the process, as currently designed, presents challenges for some groups and we’re exploring solutions now to address those concerns,” a spokesperson told The Guardian.
With the mid-term elections right around the corner and activists working to flip the House (all seats are up for election but it may come down to about 48 seats) and Senate, it’s imperative that the company put a plan in motion sooner rather than later.