He is known to have been defending Facebook’s advertising policy since 2016. In 2019, in particular, he decided not to remove any political ads from the platform in the run-up to the US presidential election. Rob Leathern, Facebook’s director of advertising integrity, has just stepped down.
He was a strong advocate of political advertising
December 30, 2020 was Rob Leathern’s last day on the Facebook group. The man in his forties announced his departure internally in early December and published his decision on Twitter a few days ago. As Reuters recalls, Rob Leathern joined the company a few weeks after Donald Trump came to power.
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He finally decides to go at the same time as the American president, who was defeated in the last election. He will have brought his touch on Facebook and some will remember him as the man who implemented very controversial advertising policies, particularly regarding disinformation about Covid-19 or political advertising. Most importantly, he was Facebook’s spokesperson on these hot topics.
Rob Leathern said he was leaving Facebook to work on consumer privacy beyond the world of advertising and social media. His four years on Facebook have been eventful. The former Facebook director was the public face of Facebook’s advertising policy. He has been criticized for not doing enough on social media to tackle disinformation and false news about two big issues: the US presidential election and Covid-19. 2020 will certainly have been the toughest year for Leathern.
Rob Leathern made several controversial decisions
In 2018 he was accused of giving politicians the opportunity to intentionally “lie” about their opponents in advertisements. Rob Leathern then claimed that he took such a step to preserve “political discourse”. When we look at recent examples of this director’s policy, we inevitably think of a surprising decision: to stop political advertising as soon as polling stations close at the time of the American elections … a deviation.
That’s not all: Leathern said in November 2019 that the social network does not have “the short-term technical capacity to allow political ads by state or advertiser”. Another anomaly, he spotted himself a few weeks later when he approved the end of Georgia state’s political advertising bans ahead of a very controversial second on January 5th and who will determine which party will control the Senate.
On Twitter, he said his job on Facebook was “difficult and demanding”. The American elections must have been very exhausting indeed. Says Leathern, “The teams I led did a very good job, especially with the US election that required a monster job for many months.” The man didn’t really explain why he left Facebook.