After the US and Brazil, the UK has become the next country to be subject to Facebook’s new rules that require those who wish to place a political advert on the social media platform to verify their identity and say who is funding the advert.
The new rule in the UK means that anyone who wishes a place an advert relating to a live political issue or promoting a UK political candidate, referencing political figures, political parties, elections, legislation before Parliament and past referenda that are the subject of national debate, will need to prove their identity, and prove that they are based in the UK. This will require them to have their passport / driving licence / resident permit checked by and authorised third-party organisation. The adverts they post will also have to carry a “Paid for by” disclaimer to enable Facebook users to see who they are engaging with when viewing the ad.
Political Advert Archive Too
The “Paid for by” link next to each political advert is linked through to a publicly searchable archive / library of political adverts. The archive / library shows a range of the ad’s budget and number of people reached, and the other ads that Page is running, and previous ads from the same source.
An advert archive of this kind was first launched by Facebook in the US back in May with the plan of making any ads published after May 7th 2018 available to view for up to seven years.
The rules on political advertising are being introduced in response to interference in the last US election and the UK referendum by state-funded actors from foreign powers (Russia has been accused), who posted adverts and content on Facebook in an attempt to influence the outcomes of both.
For example, the US House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) has released evidence of thousands of adverts which ran on Facebook and Instagram leading up to the 2016 US elections. It has emerged that these adverts were purchased by the Russian-based Internet Research Agency (IRA), and ran between 2015 and 2017.
Also, in the UK, it was revealed that Facebook harvested the personal details of 87 million Facebook users without their explicit consent, and shared those details with London-based political Consulting Firm Cambridge Analytica, which is alleged to have used that data to target political messages and advertising in the last US presidential election campaign.
Also, harvested Facebook user data was shared with Aggregate IQ, a Data Company which worked with the ‘Vote Leave’ campaign in the run-up to the Brexit Referendum.
Report Fake News
The new Facebook political advert rules and the searchable archive / library mean that Facebook users will also be able to report a political ad as fake news.
Facebook has made it known that it is taking many other measures to combat fake news and political interference via its platform. This includes an ongoing program of taking down suspect accounts and pages (more than 500 pages and 250 accounts are reported to have been taken down in the last week), and allocating a trustworthiness score to some members to help manage misinformation issues.
Another tech giant, Microsoft, has also been seen to take steps to protect US democracy by introducing a pilot secure email service called ‘AccountGuard’ specifically for use by election candidates.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
Facebook is likely to have lost a huge amount of trust among users due to a number of high profile issues and scandals, not least of which was its sharing of the personal data of its users with Cambridge Analytica and Aggregate IQ, and how that data was then used for political influence.
With the US mid-term elections just around the corner, and with the UK in a state of uncertainty over the consequences of the referendum vote for Brexit, preventing other states from interfering in the host country’s democratic processes is a hot topic, and something that Facebook doesn’t want to be associated with. Being seen to take positive, pro-active, pro-democratic measures such requiring much greater transparency from political advertisers on its platform could go some way to improving Facebook’s battered reputation in this area.
Facebook still has a long way to go, however, particularly since the recent massive hack, the reverberations of which could go on for a long time in the form of more cyber-crime targeted at Facebook users whose details from Facebook and other apps using the Facebook login were stolen.