Facebook to verify identities, require labels for political ads


Facebook will not allow political ads on its platform until the advertiser’s identity is verified and the entity paying for the message is mentioned, the social media giant has announced, in a bid to improve its transparency and accountability around political campaigns.

The social networking platform, under fire over allegations that it was being used for influencing polls, said those who want to buy political or issue ads will have to reveal their identities and verify where they are.

Facebook announced the move as its CEO Mark Zuckerberg is set to appear before Congress next week to answer questions about the harvesting of personal data on 87 million users by Cambridge Analytica, a British political consultancy working for President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

“Advertisers will be prohibited from running political ads electoral or issue-based until they are authorised, Facebook said, announcing plans to make advertisements on its platform more transparent.

“In addition, these ads will be clearly labelled in the top left corner as ‘Political Ad’. Next to it we will show ‘paid for by’ information. We started testing the authorisation process this week, and people will begin seeing the label and additional information in the US later this spring, it said.

Facebook said it is also investing in artificial intelligence and adding more people to help find advertisers that should have gone through the authorisation process but did not.

“We realise we won’t catch every ad that should be labelled, and we encourage anyone who sees an unlabelled political ad to report it. People can do this by tapping the three dots at the top right corner of the ad and selecting Report Ad,” it said.

Facebook also announced that people who manage pages with large number of followers will need to be verified. Those who manage large pages that do not clear the process will no longer be able to post, it said, adding that this will make it much harder for people to administer a page using a fake account.

“We know we were slow to pick-up foreign interference in the 2016 US elections, Facebook said on reports that Russian agents bought ads or spread misinformation on its social media outlets during the presidential polls.

“Today’s updates are designed to prevent future abuse in elections and to help ensure you have the information that you need to assess political and issue ads, as well as content on Pages. By increasing transparency around ads and Pages on Facebook, we can increase accountability for advertisers improving our service for everyone, Facebook said.

Earlier, Zuckerberg had said that Facebook was enhancing its security features to ensure the integrity of upcoming key elections in countries like India on its platform.

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