Georgia Runoff Drives Nearly $500 Million In Ad Buys; What Will Happen To Section 230?

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Runaway Runoffs

With the control of the U.S. Senate hanging in the balance, all eyes were on Georgia leading up to the runoff elections on Jan. 5 –and where there are eyes, ad dollars follow. Axios reports that the two Georgia Senate runoff races are among the most expensive Senate races in history, according to advertising spend figures from Ad Impact, with nearly $500 million spent on ads targeting Georgia voters in just two months. But although the two Democratic candidates, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, each led their Republican opponents, sitting Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, in ad buys, overall Republicans have outspent Democrats by more than $50 million across both races, thanks in part to large amounts of spending coming in from outside groups. Due to prolonged advertising blackouts on Facebook and Google, a vast majority of the advertising in the Georgia Senate runoff races was also spent on local broadcast TV.

Ban On, Ban Off

Speaking of Facebook (as everyone always seems to be) … the tech giant clamped down on sponsored posts about politics this past autumn in an attempt to stop misinformation from spreading like it did during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. But a few weeks before the Georgia race, Facebook turned off that safeguard in Georgia  to negative effect. The Markup reports that Facebook’s decision to reverse its ban on political ads in mid-December impacted the news feeds of Georgia voters by enabling partisan content to quickly elbow out legitimate news sites – replacing a large proposition of election mentions in user feeds.

See Ya Section 230?

Although numerous tech leaders have said in recent months that they’re open to changing Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, it’s possible that we’ll see a complete repeal of the law in 2021, according to USA Today. Democrats and Republicans both agree (really, they agree!) that the nation’s leading tech companies have become too powerful and need tougher regulation. Both parties have threatened to narrow or repeal Section 230, a platform’s legal exposure to content posted by users. Democrats, including President-elect Joe Biden, have urged Congress to revise Section 230 as a way to force tech companies to remove hate speech, content related to election interference and straight-up falsehoods. A number of bills that would hold Facebook, Google and Twitter legally accountable for how they moderate content are currently circulating in Congress. But repealing Section 230 isn’t a panacea. Getting rid of the law would mean platforms are likely to enact way more stringent moderation policies due to their increased risk of liability for user content.

Swimming With The Stream

It’s a touchdown for sports-first video streaming platform FuboTV, which reported a record Q4 2020 with $94 million to $98 million in forecasted revenue, a 77% to 84% YOY increase. Read the release. The preliminary numbers exceeded earlier revenue projections of between $80 million and $85 million, and pushed FuboTV shares up by more than 20%, as per Business Insider. Paid subscriber growth also skyrocketed by 72% year-over-year. The company expects to have hit 545,000 paid subscribers for 2020, an increase of more than 35,000 over its prior guidance.

But Wait, There’s More!

Twitter acquired social broadcasting app Breaker to bolster its new audio-based networking project, Twitter Spaces. [TechCrunch]

Google and Snap are reportedly in talks to invest in Indian chat app ShareChat. [Adweek]

Netflix hit record viewership numbers in December with “Bridgerton,” which reached 63 million homes. [Cord Cutter News]

ViacomCBS is in the process of remaking itself from a media conglomerate focused primarily on linear TV and theatrical films into one whose operations are oriented around streaming. [Digiday]

Apple’s latest privacy move is a blow for Facebook, but not The Trade Desk. Here’s why. [Motley Fool]

You’re Hired!

NextTech tapped former Microsoft vet Hareesh Achi as president of its 3D/AR advertising network. [release]

InterMedia hired Chris Brombach as SVP of strategy and planning. [release]