Facebook rolls out new political ad disclosures

Friday, 25 May, 2018

"We won't always get it right", the company's global politics and government outreach director Katie Harbath and public policy director Steve Satterfield said in a blog post Thursday". In order to make sure that no third party outside the USA attempts to influence the American political processes, Twitter will subject prospective advertisers, both individuals and entities, to a thorough vetting. Earlier this week, the company announced it would label the Twitter campaign accounts of candidates running for state governor, U.S. Senate or U.S. House of Representatives in the November midterm elections. Those who don't have any must verify their location by sending a notarized form to the company. Twitter will mandate that the account header, profile photo and organization name are consistent with how the organization presents itself online elsewhere, a policy likely created to ensure that orgs don't try to obfuscate their identity or present their accounts in a way that would confuse users that the account belonged to a political organization.

Only "certified" advertisers will be eligible to run ads on Twitter, Falck said. Leathern said Thursday that Facebook may at some point share the policies and training materials that its reviewers are using to decide whether an ad is political, but he also cautioned that it didn't want to tip its hand to bad actors looking to circumvent its policies. Now all political ads on Facebook and its subsidiary Instagram will be labeled that way.

So what qualifies as a political or issue ad?

Back in October, Twitter announced it was setting up the "Transparency Center" that would allow anyone to track the origins and see all background info on any ad now running on Twitter.

The same set of measures has been introduced by Facebook as well. Facebook a year ago said it discovered $100,000 in purchased ads from Russian-linked accounts that reached 10 million Facebook users, prompting Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg to vow to pursue "election integrity". The archive can be "reached by anyone in the world" through a link.

The label itself will lead to an archive with more information about the ad and the number of people who saw it, alongside demographic data such as age, location and gender. Twitter is defining political ads as "ads purchased by a political committee or candidate registered with the FEC; or ads advocating for or against a clearly identified candidate for Federal office".

The ad archive is meant to serve as a searchable public repository for political and issue ads. The topics listed range from abortion, crime, economy and the environment to foreign policy and terrorism.

As Twitter and Facebook's clampdown on so-called "Russian bots" widens, the crusade has claimed some innocent victims.