Facebook’s latest example of harnessing the power of martech stacks will come in the form of a new feature: The Facebook Ad Library. The social-media giant released Ad Library in response to the controversy over their ads influencing the 2016 election.
The stated intention of the Ad Library is to provide increased transparency for ads of all types. Users can search all current advertisements on Facebook, along with looking at every political ad from May 2018 to the present. Moving forward, any ad related to “politics or issues of national importance” will remain within the Ad Library for seven years.
Facebook Flexes Ad Library Muscles
The first real test of the Ad Library’s usefulness is the upcoming European parliamentary elections. The election will allow them to showcase the power of their new and stringent political marketing rules. The social media giant expects these steps to minimize political influence. Especially when it comes to the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
Only time will tell if the approach is effective enough.
Anyone who wishes to run an ad about politics or matters of national importance is now required to go through an authorization process. This method of verification includes submitting a copy of your photo ID and linking your ad accounts. You’ll enter in a code that’s mailed to your home as part of the process, as well. The process takes an average of one to two weeks to complete these cumbersome steps.
Additionally, advertisers will not be able to post political ads for a country they don’t live in. Once an ad buyer gets approved, all future political ads will say “Paid for by,” followed by the buyer’s name.
Is The Ripple Effect Over-Reaching?
The future implications of this entire process go much deeper than you might expect. For instance, author Tyler J. Morrison indicated that even a Kindle book written about a current candidate could cause issues. How’s that? you might ask. Well, the publication’s contents could trigger Facebook’s political ads algorithm. Now, unless Morrison gets authorized, he can’t promote his bestselling book about Pete Buttigieg on Facebook.
Authorization Upcoming for Other Topics
Facebook is not planning to stop with politics, either. The social media company has an extensive list of topics that will require authorization in the future. The topics range from ads about abortion, civil rights, and guns all the way to energy, poverty, and values.
This reaction is likely in response to reports that ads, fake events, and pages were set up about these topics during the 2016 election. What’s more, all had the intention of sowing discord. Russian bots even hit Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
A study uncovered unsavory information about the hit. According to The Guardian, researchers reported that as many as half of the negative comments and reviews about the Star Wars movie came from Russian trolls and bots. Tellingly, these intrusive web brigades were pushing specific “political agendas.”
These changes are ostensibly meant to make Facebook a safer place by making it less prone to political interference. Mark Zuckerberg recently pointed out that “it’s not Facebook’s job to set the rules for political advertising.”
— Good Morning America (@GMA) April 4, 2019
Zuckerberg elaborated that Facebook staff members will continue strengthening safeguards against political interference. At the same time, he urged each affected nation to set new regulations regarding political ads.
Will Ad Library Restrictions Work?
So, are Facebook’s latest efforts enough to dissuade influential abusers? Remember, Russian troll farms posted an estimated $100,000 worth of influential political ads before the 2016 election. That dogged level of commitment might be hard to reign in. And, although it’s clear that placing political ads will no longer be as simple as it once was, what’s to stop anyone? In fact, these obstacles have a workaround by simply using agents with U.S. addresses.
We won’t know for sure how things shake out until after the 2020 election. But one thing is clear: Facebook users in all countries should take political and social advertisements with a big grain of salt. The best way to protect against future influence from other nations is by researching each ad’s claims before sharing the info with others.