Facebook and Instagram reveal new rules ready for 2020 presidential election

Advertisers who do not comply could be banned from site entirely

Andrew Griffin
Wednesday 28 August 2019 11:47 BST
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A picture taken on January 24, 2019 shows the Facebook booth during the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, eastern Switzerland
A picture taken on January 24, 2019 shows the Facebook booth during the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, eastern Switzerland (FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)

Facebook has revealed new rules for political ads in the US, hoping to stop misbehaviour ahead of the 2020 election.

The company will force organisations to disclose details of who they are if they are before posting ads on Facebook or Instagram, it says.

It is just the latest in a series of attempts by Facebook to stop its platform being abused to influence elections. But many of those efforts have been criticised as ineffectual or miscalculated.

In the latest change, Facebook is introducing a “confirmed organisation” label for U.S. political advertisers who show government-issued credentials to demonstrate their legitimacy.

All advertisers running ads on politics or social issues will also have to post their contact information, even if they are not seeking the official label.

Advertisers must comply by mid-October or risk having their ads cut off.

Under scrutiny from regulators since Russia used social media platforms to meddle in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Facebook has been rolling out ad transparency tools country by country since last year.

Since May 2018, Facebook has required political advertisers in the United States to put a “paid for by” disclaimer on their ads. But the company said some had used misleading disclaimers or tried to register as organisations which did not exist.

“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.

Last year, Vice News journalists managed to place ads on behalf of figures and groups including U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and “Islamic State.” Just last week, Facebook banned conservative news outlet The Epoch Times from advertising on the platform after it used different pages to push pro-Trump ads.

Paid Facebook ads have become a major tool for political campaigns and other organisations to target voters.

President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign has spent about $9.6 million this year on ads on the site, making him the top spender among 2020 candidates, according to Bully Pulpit Interactive, a Democratic firm that tracks digital ad spending.

Last year, Facebook began requiring political advertisers to submit a U.S. mailing address and identity document. Under the new rules, they will also have to supply a phone number, business email and website.

To get a “confirmed organisation” label, advertisers must submit a Federal Election Commission ID number, tax-registered organisation ID number, or government website domain matching an official email.

Facebook has continuously revamped its policies around political advertising, which differ by country.

In 2018, it launched an online library of political ads, although the database has been criticised by researchers for being poorly maintained and failing to provide useful ad targeting information.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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