As Europe gears up to the Parliamentary elections in May, Facebook are dramatically changing the way that they accept political advertisements.
Facebook are are introducing some new tools to help it deliver on two key goals that experts have told them are important for protecting the integrity of elections — preventing online advertising from being used for foreign interference, and increasing transparency around all forms of political and issue advertising.
To help prevent abuse and interference all EU advertisers will need to be authorised in their country to run ads related to the European Parliamentary elections. Facebook will ask them to submit documents and use technical checks to confirm their identity and location.
It will be using a combination of automated systems and user reporting to enforce this policy. Facebook recognises that some people can try and work around any system but are confident this will be a real barrier for anyone thinking of using Facebook ads to interfere in an election from outside of a country.
Importantly, this means that all the people who are using ads are identified as related to politics or issues and have been authorised as being in the targeted country. They will be required to provide accurate information about who they are.
This will help relevant authorities investigate them if they have any suspicions. There are many issues that only election regulators can effectively decide, for example if rules on campaign finance have been followed, and Facebook’s new tools will help them in that work.
Labelling Political and Issue Ads
To increase transparency, all ads related to politics and issues on Facebook and Instagram in the EU must be clearly labelled — including a “Paid for by” disclosure from the advertiser at the top of the ad.
This means that users can see who is paying for the ad and, for any business or organisation, their contact details. When users click on the label, they will be able to see more information such as the campaign budget associated with an individual ad, how many people saw it and their age, location and gender. Facebook are inviting all political campaigns to start the ads authorisation process now and will start to block political or issue ads that have not been properly registered from mid-April.
Facebook has said that it wants to make sure that it captures the broad range of ads that are intended to influence the outcome of the election. This means including not only ads that advocate voting for particular candidates or parties but also issue ads, which don’t explicitly back one candidate or political party but which focus on highly politicised topics such as immigration.
Committing to Transparency and Accountability
Facebook has said that more transparency will lead to increased accountability and responsibility over time — not just for Facebook but for advertisers as well. It said that it is investing heavily in more people and better technology to proactively identify abuse.
Asking users specifically, Facebook said “if you see an ad which you believe is related to politics or issues and isn’t labelled, please report it. Facebook will review the ad, and if it falls under our political advertising policy, we’ll take it down and add it to the Ad Library.”
Facebook’s Ad Library is an archive of political adverts that have been submitted to or seen across Facebook’s platforms.