Facebook has unveiled new political advertising rules ahead of next year’s US presidential election amid fears the platform will be exploited. Political advertisers will now have to verify their identity before being given a “confirmed organisation” label.
It marks the latest in a series of attempts to address incidents where users placed misleading or inaccurate ads to influence voters. The rules will also apply to Instagram, which is owned by Facebook.
Paid-for Facebook ads have become a popular tool for political campaigns and other organisations to target voters. The platform previously revealed that the 2016 Trump campaign had spent in the region of $70m (£57.3m) on ads over the election period.
Facebook has been rolling out transparency tools on a country-by-country basis ever since reports claimed that Russia-based agents had uploaded content to influence voters during the 2016 presidential election.
Facebook has required political advertisers in the US to put a “paid for” disclaimer on their ads since 2018, but the changes have not completely stamped out improper use.
The company recently banned the Falun Gong-linked Epoch News outlet after a report from NBC News claimed it had used falsely labelled pages to push pro-Trump adverts. Previously journalists at Vice News managed to place ads on the site purporting to be on behalf of US Vice President Mike Pence.
Sarah Schiff, product manager at Facebook, said the new rules were in direct response to such loopholes being exploited. “In 2018 we did see evidence of misuse in these disclaimers and so this is our effort to strengthen the process,” she told the Newcastle Herald.
Aaron Reike, managing director at digital justice organisation Upturn, told the BBC he was “surprised” it had taken the platform so long to implement such rules. Facebook’s former chief security officer, Alex Stamos, has suggested it would be tough for the company to implement the new rules across all its platforms.
“Instagram has some of the same problems Twitter has in that you can have a pseudo-anonymous identity,” he told The Verge. “So, ‘Is Instagram ready?’ is actually a big question.”