Trump Campaign Prematurely Boasts Record GDP Growth In Efforts To Skirt Facebook’s Ad Ban

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Topline

 In a bid to circumvent Facebook’s ban on new political adverts in the week before the election, the Trump campaign prematurely released a slew of new sponsored posts on Monday boasting record GDP growth in the third quarter, a claim that is in line with analyst expectations of 20% growth—although official figures won’t be released until October 29, pointing to the limits in Facebook’s attempt to crack down on misinformation before polling day.

Key Facts

Facebook’s ad library shows Trump’s reelection campaign paid for around 15 different versions of ads, shared on Oct. 26, featuring various graphics boasting impressive GDP growth in July, August and September.

“Growth in the third quarter was more than double the previous record,” one read, while another graphic reads: “The U.S. economy just had the fastest three months of growth…ever.”

Captions accompanying the posts make vague claims about “historic” GDP numbers and the graphic invites viewers to click on a link that reads “support economic growth” that leads to Win Red, the Republican Party’s fundraising platform.

Facebook’s ban on new political ads will be enforced from Tuesday, seven days before Election Day.

Key Background

Facebook’s move to ban new political ads in the week up to Nov. 3, announced in early September, was widely characterised as the most stringent measure yet taken by the social media giant with regards to misinformation and disinformation in the 2020 election cycle. Until that point, CEO Mark Zuckerberg had been loath to enforce such a ban, in line with his laissez faire attitude towards moderating content on the site, and suggested such a move would be counterintuitive. But critics very quickly pointed out that the limits of the ban, which does not actually stop ads containing false information from being shared, and would simply prompt a flurry of ads, including false ones, being pushed through by candidates before the cutoff point and allowed to run for the entire week. Other critics also pointed out that the ban would be largely ineffective in an election year that has seen record numbers of people cast their votes early, while the likes of Twitter, Google and Snapchat introduced an outright ban on political ads.

Big Number

20.3%. That’s how much the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) has forecast GDP to be up by in the three months to September, although forecasts range widely among other analysts. Despite economic turmoil caused by the virus and social distancing measures that pushed GDP to its biggest ever quarterly decline in Q2, analysts say that, if realised, a 20% growth estimate in the third quarter would mark the biggest quarterly increase since records began in 1947 as the U.S. economy bounces back from Q2’s plunge. The third quarter increase looks mostly to be driven by higher consumer spending in July and August, although some analysts are warning that the outlook in the final three months of 2020 won’t be so rosy, as a further coronavirus relief bill still hangs in the balance, while jobs aren’t growing at a fast enough rate.

What To Watch For

The BEA will release official GDP figures for the third quarter on Oct. 29.

Tangent

With a week until the big day, polls show Biden is comfortably leading in the states that aided Trump’s victory in 2016: Wisconsin (10-point lead), Michigan (9-point lead), and Pennsylvania (8-point lead). Biden’s lead in these states is also steadier than that of Clinton four years ago, and if they’re anything to go by on the day, the polls indicate a Biden victory if he manages to also cling onto the states that Clinton previously won.

Further Reading

Facebook Will Block New Political Ads In The Week Before Election Day (Forbes)

Today’s 2020 Election Polls: Biden Bolsters Lead In Pennsylvania, Wisconsin And Michigan (Forbes)

United States Economic Forecast (Deloitte)

U.S. Q3 GDP Expected To Rise Sharply As Q4 Outlook Dims (Seeking Alpha)