Liar, Liar … Ads On Fire!

October 26, 2019

Take a look at the advertisements around you. You know that their purpose is to sell you something, but how they each do that differs, right? Some make promises (“Up to ten times faster internet speeds!”), others promise benefits (“You will sleep better with our mattress!”) and some ads often exaggerate (“The best soap in the world!”) or assume customers know some basic facts (most consumers know that french fries are not from France, for example). But regardless of how an ad talks about its product, the Federal Trade Commission believes there should be truth in advertising. It states, “When consumers see or hear an advertisement, whether it’s on the Internet, radio, television, or anywhere else, federal law says that ad must be truthful, not misleading, and, when appropriate, backed by scientific evidence.”

This is why the buzz about Facebook this week has grabbed the attention of everyone from technology experts to politicians to advertising executives. Facebook recently revealed that it would allow politicians to lie in ads. Sure, Facebook has policies that it expects advertisers to adhere to, such as restrictions on using bad language, but when it comes to truth and lies in ads, Facebook believes that users can decide for themselves whether something is true or not.

Anthony Quintano from Honolulu, HI, United States [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]
As with most controversies, there are differing opinions. On one hand, people think Facebook should follow the same rules as owners of billboards, buses, and other public places do by insisting on truth in ads and taking down ads that are considered untruthful. On the other hand, people are asking if it’s reasonable to expect that a company can verify millions of ads on its own. Besides, why can’t people decide on their own if ads are truthful? Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has faced a lot of criticism for the decision to not ban lies in ads and has been questioned by senators in a hearing this week.

Have you seen an ad anywhere that you thought was a lie? Send us a picture and tell us why you thought it was a lie!