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Facebook won’t catalog sponsored Mike Bloomberg memes as political ads

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Bloomberg’s bad memes might just be the beginning

Presidential Candidate Mike Bloomberg Holds Campaign Rally In Nashville Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Facebook will allow influencers to produce sponsored content for political campaigns so long as the posts are clearly identified as ads, the company announced on Friday.

Before Friday, Facebook didn’t have any guidelines for influencers who create sponsored content for politicians and political campaigns. But after Mike Bloomberg’s presidential campaign was found to have paid popular Instagram meme pages for posts, Facebook decided to allow these paid political partnerships.

Sponsored political content will not be placed in Facebook’s political Ad Library unless the creator pays to boost their posts, a Facebook spokesperson confirmed to The Verge. Facebook does not receive any money for sponsored posts unless they are boosted.

“The campaign was explicitly clear that these posts were ads and sponsored content,” a Bloomberg spokesperson told The Verge. “We went above and beyond to follow Instagram’s rules and the text of the post clearly shows these are the campaign’s paid ads.”

These rules will only apply in the United States for now, Facebook said.

“Branded content is different from advertising, but in either case we believe it’s important people know when they’re seeing paid content on our platforms,” a Facebook spokesperson told The Verge. “We’re allowing US-based political candidates to work with creators to run this content, provided the political candidates are authorized and the creators disclose any paid partnerships through our branded content tools.”

Bloomberg has largely avoided campaigning in early primary states, instead opting to spend what The Hill reports as close to $1 million a day on Facebook ads and more on advertising on cable television. On Thursday, The New York Times reported that the Bloomberg campaign was working alongside a group called Meme 2020, which is led by the CEO of the viral media group Jerry Media. All of the accounts found to have partnered with Bloomberg were paid to post fake direct messages with the candidate, according to The New York Times.

For years, the Federal Trade Commission has required influencers and content creators to clearly label their posts as ads if they’re sponsored. But most of those posts advertise consumer goods like weight loss shakes and clothing. On Thursday, the FTC announced that it would be seeking public comment on whether it should review these rules and inflict harsher penalties for mislabeling content.

Updated 2/14/20 at 2:15PM ET: Included a statement from the Bloomberg campaign.