Facebook begins enforcing political ad authorisation in the UK

The social network first introduced the tools to the UK in October.

Facebook has begun enforcing its advert transparency and authorisation process for political adverts in the UK.

First introduced in October, the tools make it compulsory for advertisers to confirm their identity and location and who paid for adverts related to political issues.

As part of the project, which has already rolled out in the US and Brazil, Facebook archives adverts in an Ad Library.

However, a delay in the system taking full effect was triggered after journalists were able to undermine it by posing as politicians and a banned organisation.

Adverts said to be from US senators and election consultants Cambridge Analytica, banned by Facebook after a data scandal, were approved by the social network despite being placed by journalists in the UK and US.

Facebook said it had already made changes and was continuing to work on improving its systems.

The platform’s director of product management, Rob Leathern, said: “UK enforcement starts today for advertisers that want to run political ads.

(Dominic Lipinski/PA)
(Dominic Lipinski/PA)

“Now political advertisers must confirm their identity and location, as well as say who paid for the ad, before they can be approved to run political ads on Facebook and/or Instagram.

“Ads related to politics will be housed in an Ad Library for seven years. Advertisers will be prevented from running a political ad if they aren’t authorised.

“If we learn of an ad that requires authorisation and is running without a ‘Paid for by’ disclaimer, we’ll take it down and place it in the Ad Library.

“This helps shine a brighter light on political advertising and offers a resource for news organisations, regulators, watchdog groups and the public to hold advertisers more accountable.”

The social network also announced that it would not require eligible news publishers to be authorised when publishing adverts that promoted articles linked to politics.

These adverts had been stored in a separate section of the Ad Library.

Mr Leathern said work on how to categorise news organisations creating adverts on the subject of political figures or issues was also ongoing.

“Since the launch of these new ad transparency and authorisation initiatives in the US in May, we’ve debated how best to treat ads mentioning political figures, elections or issues of national importance that come from news organisations,” he said.

He added that the system had been created to help prevent foreign intervention in elections after detecting “foreign actors pretending to be news organisations”, but acknowledged the new process had been “problematic” for some news publishers.

“We’ve since built more controls to help prevent politically motivated actors looking to use false news or sensationalism as weapons, and in September we announced a news indexing process designed to more clearly and consistently identify Pages posting news on Facebook,” he said.

“In light of these developments, and in an effort to continually learn and improve, we’ll utilise this new process to ensure that ads from news outlets no longer get archived as the index rolls out more broadly.

“Enforcement on these ads will never be perfect, but we’ll continue to work on improving our systems and technology to prevent abuse.

“Uncovering who ultimately paid for a political ad is a challenge that goes beyond Facebook, but we know that we must make it a lot harder for bad actors to deceive or interfere on our platform.”

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