Facebook to implement new transparency rules for political ads

October 31, 2017 16:10
Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook found US$100,000 worth of ads purchased from Russian-linked accounts in September. The  3,000 ads were seen by 10 million users. Photo: Bloomberg

Under pressure in advance of hearings on Russian election interference, Facebook is trying to make it explicitly clear when you are looking at a political advertisement.

In response to concerns that Russia used Facebook ads in an attempt to influence last year’s presidential election, the social network has introduced new rules for advertisers in an effort to promote transparency. It will release a few more details about its plans.

Once the new rules are out, political ads will need to be verified and identified as political. A "paid for by" disclosure will be included and users can tap on an ad to view more information. Also, when you’re looking at a Facebook page, you should be able to click “view ads” and bring up all the ads that page is currently running.

Facebook also said political advertisers will have to verify their identity, their location and the fact that their ad is election-related. To combat advertisers that do not disclose themselves, Facebook is building machine learning tools so that it can find the political advertisers who don’t identify themselves.

It is starting a test in Canada. The new transparency features are expected to go live next month.

According to Facebook, when the feature expands to the US next summer, it will include an archive of ads related to federal elections, covering “a rolling four-year period” that starts at the launch of the archive. Also, it will feature additional information like the total and average amounts spent on ads, the number of impressions an ad received and the demographics that were targeted.

"These changes will make it easier to see what different groups are trying to communicate around elections and will make it harder for anyone to break the rules," Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page on Oct. 27. "This won't stop all bad actors, but it's one of many important steps forward."

The news comes right before Facebook, along with Google and Twitter, are scheduled to testify in hearings with the US Senate and House Intelligence Committees.

In September, Zuckerberg announced that Facebook found US$100,000 worth of ads purchased from Russian-linked accounts. The social network said the 3,000 ads were seen by 10 million Facebook users.

The goal of the new measures is to try to make sure Facebook is not misused during the United States midterm elections in November 2018. Zuckerberg said the new ads changes should go into effect by then.

Twitter made some similar transparency measures earlier this week, announcing it will also publicly share the identity of political advertisers.

– Contact us at [email protected]