Facebook is apparently clamping down on the distribution of political advertisers using the social media platform. Buzz60
SAN FRANCISCO —Facebook says it will begin disclosing more about political ads that run on the giant social network ahead of next week’s congressional hearings in which the nation’s technology giants will testify about Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election.
Federal political advertisers will have to verify their identities and locations and ads will carry a disclosure saying who paid for them. Facebook is also testing a feature that lets anyone visit any page on Facebook and see what ads that page is running, whether they are political in nature or not.
The new rules for political ads bring Facebook closer to what’s required of other media such as television, an effort to persuade lawmakers the company is capable of policing itself.
Pressure on Facebook is intensifying in Washington. Last week senators introduced a bipartisan bill, the Honest Ads Act, that would require the companies to disclose who is paying for political ads that appear on their online platforms. The legislation by Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and John McCain, R-Ariz., comes in the wake of damaging revelations that Kremlin-linked groups exploited American social media to influence the 2016 presidential election.
“When Russians took advantage of loopholes in our laws and bought ads to divide Americans and influence our election it was a big wake-up call. The lack of transparency and accountability in online political advertising is a threat to our democracy,” Klobuchar said in a statement Friday. “It’s good to see companies taking these concerns seriously and I appreciate that Facebook is taking some new significant steps, but fixing this problem cannot be done with a patchwork of changes by individual platforms.”
Facebook says it’s adding thousands of people to its teams and will start using machine learning to identify political ads, just as it does spam. And the Menlo Park, Calif., company plans to build an archive of federal election ads so people can look up campaigns.
“These changes will make it easier to see what different groups are trying to communicate around elections and will make it harder for anyone to break the rules. This won’t stop all bad actors, but it’s one of many important steps forward,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post.
Facebook, which for years resisted complying with federal ad disclosure rules that apply to other types of media, isn’t the only company trying to show lawmakers it’s taking seriously foreign efforts to manipulate the American electorate.
On Thursday, Twitter said it would mandate disclosures for political ads and banned Kremlin-backed media companies Russia Today and Sputnik from advertising on the social media service.
Facebook this month turned over thousands of Russian ads to congressional investigators. It’s an about face-for Zuckerberg, who called it a “pretty crazy idea” that Facebook had any influence over the outcome of the election. He has since apologized for dismissing the idea.
“We need Congress to pass my bipartisan Honest Ads Act to ensure all major online platforms are held to the same standards in place as broadcasters — including advertisements for issues of national legislative importance,” Klobuchar said.