Facebook Tightens Political Ad Rules, But is it Enough?

John Lister's picture

Facebook is taking new steps to prevent misleading political ads following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which had millions of Facebook profiles harvested and used without consent for political advertising purposes. It says it's tightening the rules on buyers, which must now not only prove their identity, but also the organization they are associated with.

Since 2018, anyone paying for an advertisement on Facebook relating to elections, politics or social issues has had to prove their identity to Facebook. They also have to include a disclaimer in the ad marked "Paid for by...", which is also seen in many TV campaigns.

According to Facebook, the process has been undermined by people complying with the identity rules, but putting misleading information in the disclaimer. For example, an individual might register with their real name, but then use a bogus organization name.

Businesses Must Now Prove Identity

Facebook says it's now going to ask for a US address, phone number, email and matching website address, and then provide the ad purchaser one of five options.

The first three options are a business tax number, a Federal Election Commission identification number, or proof that the organization has a government website domain ending in .mil or .gov. Advertisers providing one of these three will be able to use their organization's name in the disclaimer and bear the label "Confirmed Organization."

A fourth option is to simply provide contact details, including the business website. The advertiser will be able to use their organization name in the "Paid for by..." notice, but won't get the "Confirmed Organization" label.

Finally, advertisers can simply provide personal contact information. They won't get the "Confirmed Organization" label and their personal name will be listed on the ad rather than an organization name.

The new rules take effect in mid-September 2019 and if any advertiser hasn't provided the extra detail by mid-October, their ads may be put on hold indefinitely. (Source: fb.com)

Not All Political Ads Picked Up

Critics say that even the updated rules still have two significant flaws. The first is that Facebook's automated system for figuring out which ads qualify as "political" and are therefore subject to said rules are not reliable enough.

The second is the way Facebook makes the details of the advertisers available. All ads that come under the rules are kept in a publicly accessible database for seven years, which Facebook argues will help to increase transparency.

However, this data isn't part of Facebook's application programming interface (API). That means researchers can't easily use their own tools to crunch the data and spot patterns of behavior by advertisers, which could potentially uncover scandalous or unlawful behavior. (Source: cbsnews.com)

What's Your Opinion?

Do you approve of the new rules? Is it Facebook's job to check political advertisers are who they say they are? Would you pay any attention to labels saying who paid for an ad or if their identity has been confirmed?

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matt_2058's picture

What's the real reason behind this? To promote honesty in advertising? HA! And when politics is concerned, make that a double.

More than likely, the goal is to have a plausible excuse for which advertisements they will accept. Because if they didn't have this rule, they would be called biased. And maybe even violating rules if they didn't accept equal amounts of advertising.

Again, social engineering at work.

I do believe there needs to be accountability in political advertisements. But a media company is not the answer. The FEC needs to step in as they are already policing the elections. Fine anyone or any entity for false or misleading ads. Only severe consequences get some people to do right, in all matters.

ijac's picture

Why anyone would believe anything on Facebook is beyond me.I have a account (though not real name and info) just to keep up with my grand kids.I don't believe any of the advertising junk and most times don't even read it.To me Facebook is evil I am on it like 5 or 10 minutes then out of there.