Facebook, Inc. recently announced its intention to tighten its political advertising rules in the U.S. requiring new disclosures for the site and photo-sharing platform Instagram before the U.S. presidential election in November 2020.
The social media company plans to introduce a “confirmed organization” status for U.S. political advertisers who have provided government-issued credentials proving their legitimacy. In addition, all advertisers who chose to run political ads or those about social issues will be required to post their contact information, whether they are seeking official status. All advertisers must comply with this new rule no later than mid-October, or they risk having their ads terminated.
Triggered by scrutiny from regulators due to the fact that Russia used social media platforms to sway the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Facebook has been touting ad transparency tools in various countries since that time.
In advance of these new rules, Facebook began requiring political advertisers to submit proof of their identity as well as a valid U.S. mailing address. The new rules will also require political advertisers to supply a phone number, business email, and website.
To obtain a “confirmed organization” status a Federal Election Commission ID number, tax-registered organization ID number, or government website domain matching an official email must be submitted.
In addition, since May 2018, Facebook has required political advertisers in the U.S. to put a “paid for by” disclaimer on their ads to avoid misleading disclaimers as well as to deter those who attempt to register as organizations that do not really exist.
In fact, last year Vice News journalists managed to place ads on behalf of political figures and groups including U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and “Islamic State.”
The Trump campaign told Reuters it thought there was a “glaring omission” in Facebook’s political ads’ policy because news media were not held to the same standards as campaigns for buying ads.
Evidently, Facebook does not apply its ad authorization policies to those news sources they have determined to have a good reputation for avoiding misinformation, have a certain number of visitors and, place ads that are intended to report on current events and news.
“In 2018 we did see evidence of misuse in these disclaimers and so this is our effort to strengthen the process,” said Sarah Schiff, product manager at Facebook.
Paid Facebook ads have become a wildly successful way for political campaigns and other groups to target voters, and is a popular platform with President Trump, whose reelection campaign spent approximately $9.6 million in 2019 on ads on the site. Regulations and special rules are needed to ensure fair political advertising practices for individuals, groups, organizations, and the media, especially if it is said to meddle in elections.