Since news first broke that Facebook might be used as a platform for election meddling, the pressure on Facebook (and other social media giants) to take proactive measures to prevent such abuse has ceaselessly continued. Facebook addresses the issue from time to time, and has promised various features. But, this week Facebook announced:
"In the run up to the European Elections in May, we are making big changes to the way ads with political content work on Facebook."
The "big changes" include Facebook's attempt to address two key concerns. First, Facebook aims to limit foreign interference in online advertising. Second, the company says it will increase transparency regarding political ads. To accomplish these goals, Facebook is launching an authorized advertiser program, political ads labeling requirements, an ad library, and a new reporting program.
As the EU elections approach, Facebook is requiring that all EU advertisers be authorized to run ads related to the EU elections. For authorization, advertisers must submit documents and technical checks to confirm identity and locations. Facebook is implementing automated technology to both enforce and report attempts to work around this system.
All political ads in the EU must be labeled accordingly. This policy includes a required "Paid for by" label from the advertiser who paid for the ad. This allows users to see who pays for the ad, and the advertiser's contact information. Facebook will start blocking unauthorized political ads in mid-April.
Facebook is also introducing an Ad Library that researchers and watchdogs can access to increase transparency and awareness. Users can see all ads that have a classification as political ad or political issue. Facebook will make these ads available through the Ad Library for seven years. The "See Ad Details" option allows users to see how often the ad was viewed, demographics about who viewed the ad, and more.
In addition to these features, Facebook has created a political advertising policy with a new ability to report abuse. The company hopes this will increase overall transparency and foster cooperation across users, partners, advertisers, and Facebook to accomplish this goal. These seem like great steps. But, not everyone is willing to trust that Facebook can achieve this goals relying on its own devices. In a recent blog post titled Facebook and Google: This is What an Effective Ad Archive API Looks Like, the Mozilla team lays out five guidelines that it believes should be required to truly support election influence monitoring and research. Check out the article to learn more.