Published: Fri, August 30, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Facebook tightens rules for US political advertisers ahead of 2020 election

Facebook tightens rules for US political advertisers ahead of 2020 election

After facing flak over spread of fake political ads, Facebook on Wednesday announced additional measures it will take to protect elections and prepare for the USA 2020 Presidential election.

Facebook said that if advertisers don't comply with these new policies and provide the appropriate information by mid-October, the site will pause their ads. Facebook previously launched an online library of political ads but was criticized by many who attempted to use it, claiming that it was poorly maintained and did not provide useful ad targeting information.

"While our efforts to protect elections are ongoing and won't be flawless, they will make it harder for advertisers to obscure who is behind ads and will provide greater transparency for people", wrote Katie Harbath, Facebook's Public Policy Director for Global Elections, in a blog post.

In response, the company will soon require that advertisers provide more information about their organization before approving their disclaimer.

The social network has worked to secure its site during elections, setting up so-called war rooms to handle false content and bad ads during the 2018 midterm elections in the United States, as well as the national election in India this year and the EU's parliamentary elections.

A Russia ad on Facebook in 2016

Even though Facebook is providing more transparency on political ads, companies like Cambridge Analytica boasted of their ability to run far-reaching influence campaigns with fake blogs, events, and memes - none of which qualify as political ads. Beginning last spring, the company began to require anyone buying political advertising to verify their identity and location.

In late 2017, Facebook said it would verify political ad buyers by requiring them to confirm their names and locations, the latter by receiving a postcard with a confirmation code at a US address. Since the 2016 election, Facebook has made it easier to see who paid for political ads and has partnered with the Atlantic Council to work against misinformation proactively. The impact of ads from news publishers on politics and political issues through Facebook will remain concealed from the public. While policymakers never managed to pass such a law, their threats prompted other companies including Google and Twitter to unveil their own versions of the ad archive.

The move is meant to increase the transparency of ads on the platform ahead of the 2020 USA presidential election.

Mozilla researchers studying the 2019 elections for the European Parliament, for example, encountered numerous technical troubles when trying to analyze Facebook's archive. However, advertisers sometimes attempt to put misleading "Paid for by" disclaimers on their ads.

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