Changes to the process of running political and issue advertising in the European Union—which Facebook initially revealed in January and further detailed later that month—were implemented this week in the run-up to the EU Parliamentary elections in May.
All advertisers in the EU seeking to run political and issue ads related to the Parliamentary elections must be authorized to do so in their respective countries. In order to achieve this, they must submit documents verifying their identity and location, and Facebook will use its technology to confirm their locations, as well as relying on a combination of automated systems and user reporting.
Allan wrote, “We recognize that some people can try and work around any system, but we are confident that this will be a real barrier for anyone thinking of using our ads to interfere in an election from outside of a country.”
He added, “This means that all the people who are reaching you with ads identified as related to politics or issues have been authorized as being in your country and will be required to provide accurate information about who they are. This will help relevant authorities investigate them if they have any suspicions. There are many issues that only election regulators can effectively decide—for example if rules on campaign finance have been followed—and our new tools will help them in this important work.”
All ads related to politics and issues on Facebook and Instagram in the EU must be labeled and include a “Paid for by” disclosure atop the ad, which has been the case in the U.S. since last May and in the U.K. since last November.
Allan wrote, “We want to make sure that we capture the broad range of ads that are intended to influence the outcome of the election. This means including not only ads that advocate voting for particular candidates or parties, but also issue ads, which don’t explicitly back one candidate or political party, but which focus on highly politicized topics such as immigration.”
Facebook’s Ad Library feature will store political and issue ads for seven years, and anyone can search Ad Library, regardless of whether they are logged into Facebook.
Clicking Ad Details on an ad in Ad Library will bring up information including number of times the ad was viewed and demographics on who the ad reached.
News publishers are exempt in the U.S. and U.K., and Allan said Facebook will extend that exemption throughout the EU as soon as it has the necessary infrastructure in place to do so.
In February, a Mozilla-led coalition of groups in Europe—in fields including technology, human rights, academics and journalism—sent a letter to Facebook urging the social network to release an application-programming interface that would allow for the study and analysis of political ads served by Facebook to people in the European Union, as well as to extend the policies it already implemented in the U.S. and U.K. across the EU.
Allan wrote, “We believe that more transparency will lead to increased accountability and responsibility over time—not just for Facebook, but for advertisers, as well. We’re investing heavily in more people and better technology to proactively identify abuse. But if you see an ad that you believe is related to politics or issues and isn’t labeled, please report it. Facebook will review the ad, and if it falls under our political advertising policy, we’ll take it down and add it to the Ad Library.”
He concluded, “These changes will not prevent abuse entirely. We’re up against smart, creative and well-funded adversaries who change their tactics as we spot abuse. But we believe that they will help prevent future interference in elections on Facebook. And that is why they are so important.”