Following the 2016 election and the Cambridge Analyica scandal, many have called upon Facebook, as well as other social media platforms, to increase their transparency regarding how political ads are paid for. The company has committed to increasing transparency as it prepares for the 2020 election. To do that, it will implement new tools that are intended to help Facebook users determine who, or what, paid for the political ads that they receive.
Facebook’s Rocky Past
The last couple of years have been tough on Facebook. The company has been the subject of dozens of political scandals since the 2016 election in the United States. However, its political troubles extend around the world as other countries are experiencing fallout from Facebook’s lack of transparency regarding advertising, as well as its responsibilities in the spread of fake news and hate-speech that fuels political movements. In Myanmar, for example, Facebook recently came to terms with the role that it played in the spread of hate-speech that fueled a genocide against the Rohingya people.
Cambridge Analytica was only the start of Facebook’s troubles with politics. The scandal rocked the world in March of 2018 when whistleblower Christopher Wiley spoke with media about the role that his employer, a digital agency in England called Cambridge Analytica, played in political events. Events like Brexit, the 2016 Presidential Election in the United States, and other big elections in smaller countries around the world were impacted by how the agency handled data obtained through Facebook. With the data, Cambridge Analytica was able to create highly specific targeted ads to individual voters in order to sway their political opinions and obtain a vote for a certain candidate.
Now that attention has been drawn to the issues that allowed for political propaganda to run rampant on social media, Facebook has been working hard to combat it in ways that it can. Fake news, another issue prevalent on the social media platform, has been at the forefront of this discussion.
Updates To The Political Ad Policy
Facebook announced on Tuesday that it will be expanding on its policies regarding political ads on Facebook. The company wrote in a blog post that, in addition to having to comply with any local laws regarding political advertising, they would be expanding on their own rules to make such ads more transparent to Facebook users. Facebook users will soon be able to see information on who paid for a specific ad for up to seven years after the ad is published.
When an ad is paid for on Facebook, the user will have to go through a series of authentications within the platform to verify identity and disclose who is paying for the ad. The information will then be disclosed on the actual ad itself as a “paid for by … ” sentence placed within the ad. This will help Facebook users determine whether or not to trust the ads they’re being shown as we head into the 2020 election.
“Starting today, we are rolling out our transparency tools globally for advertisers wanting to place ads about social issues, elections or politics,” Sarah Schiff, the company’s Product Manager wrote in a blog post that was published on Tuesday on Facebook.