As political ad expenditure for 2020 ramps up, Facebook is tightening its guidelines to ensure that political or problem advertising organizations are valid and are not playing the system. The modifications will make it difficult for organizations to dodge Facebook’s political advertising review program with some high-profile examples of such evasion already emerging.
The social media giant is introducing a “confirmed organization” label for U.S. political advertisers to demonstrate their legitimacy by showing government-issued credentials.
All advertisers who run ads on political or social issues will also have to post their contact information, even if they don’t seek the formal label. Advertisers must comply or risk cutting off their advertisements by mid-October this year.
Under regulatory scrutiny,since Russia used social media platforms to interfere with the U.S. presidential election in 2016, since last year, Facebook has been rolling out country-by-country ad transparency tools.
Since May 2018, U.S. political advertisers have been needed by Facebook to place a disclaimer “paid for by” on their advertisements. But the firm said that some used false disclaimers or attempted to register as non-existent organizations. Sarah Schiff, Facebook product manager says, “In 2018 we did see evidence of misuse in these disclaimers and so this is our effort to strengthen the process,”.
Last year, reporters from Vice News succeeded in placing advertisements on behalf of individuals and organizations including the U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and “Islamic State.” Just last week, after using various websites to promote pro-Trump advertisements, Facebook prohibited the conservative news outlet The Epoch Times from advertising on the platform.
Paid Facebook advertisements have become an important instrument for political campaigns and other organizations in targetting voters.
According to Bully Pulpit Interactive, a Democratic company that tracks digital ad spending, President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign has spent about $9.6 million this year on ads on the site making him the top spender among 2020 candidates.
Last year, Facebook started requiring a U.S. mailing address and identity document from political advertisers. They will also have to provide a phone number, company email, and website under the new regulations.
To obtain a “confirmed organization” label, advertisers are required to submit an official email matching Federal Election Commission ID number, tax-registered organization ID number, or public website domain. Facebook has continually revamped its political advertising strategies, which vary from nation to nation.
It introduced an internet political advertising library in 2018, although scientists have criticized the database for being poorly maintained and failing to provide helpful ad targeting data. These requirements represent a favorable step towards internet transparency. Facebook has taken the lead in the construction of a political advertising library since 2016. Other companies are likely to mimic their efforts requiring more scrutiny.
While there are no legal requirements in the U.S. regarding internet political advertising, political advertising on TV is governed. However, these demands still leave space for organizations to conceal their source of financing. For instance, Bloomberg revealed just this week that a group of mysteries has poured $13 million into health care bills advertisements. This is par for the Federal Communications Commission’s broadcast publicity course.
Facebook claims it will make more improvements to its ad library over the coming months and expand its strategy to ban advertisements that expressly prevent individuals in the U.S. from voting.