Future Tense

How Facebook Is Changing Its Rules Around Political Ads

Users who buy issue ads will have to confirm their locations and identities.
Users who buy issue ads will have to confirm their locations and identities. LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images

Facebook announced new regulations on Friday for political ads hosted on the platform and its subsidiary, Instagram, in order to combat election meddling.

Most notably, users who want to run ads on the platform that touch on general political topics, also known as “issue ads,” will have to undergo a verification process that requires them to confirm their identities and locations. These ads will have a “Political Ad” label on the top left corner of the post, as well as information about its funding. Pages with “large numbers of followers” will also have to go through the verification process.

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Facebook released a video previewing the disclosure interface:

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Facebook announced on Tuesday that it had removed more than 200 accounts that were controlled by the Internet Research Agency, a Kremlin-linked organization that disseminated fake news and divisive content during the 2016 presidential campaign. During that period, the agency was responsible for purchasing Facebook ads that sought to inflame debates around gun rights, Muslims, Black Lives Matter, and other contentious issues. The ads in some cases even encouraged users to attend fake rallies. Facebook is now planning to hire thousands of employees to work on reviewing ads and verify buyers in time for the 2018 midterm elections.

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In a Facebook post commenting on the policy changes, CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote, “These steps by themselves won’t stop all people trying to game the system. But they will make it a lot harder for anyone to do what the Russians did during the 2016 election and use fake accounts and pages to run ads.”

He also expressed his support for the Honest Ads Act, a bipartisan bill before Congress that would require social media companies to make disclosures regarding political ad spending. As of now, most campaign finance rules “This will help raise the bar for all political advertising online,” Zuckerberg wrote.

As of now, most of the campaign finance rules for ads on television, radio, and in print do not apply to those on social media. The Honest Ads Act essentially updates the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 to ensure that digital platforms also abide by disclosure rules for political ads.

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