Facebook on Friday announced its latest policy update designed to counter malicious attempts to use the platform to interfere with democratic elections: The company is now only letting "authorized" advertisers post ads about political issues.
Facebook is working with third parties to develop a list of political issues that will fall under this rule. To run an ad on any of these issues, on either Facebook or Instagram, an advertiser will need to confirm their identity and location with Facebook. This follows up on Facebook's actions in October, when the company limited electoral ads to only authorized advertisers.
Additionally, issue ads will be labeled on the site as Political ads and will display information about the ad's sponsor. Facebook began testing the authorization process this week, and the labels should appear in the US later this spring.
The company is also making it easier for users to search for political ads on the platform. They're also only allowing people with verfied accounts to manage Pages with a large numbers of followers, making it harder to administer a page with a fake account.
In his own blog post, CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote, "These steps by themselves won't stop all people trying to game the system. But they will make it a lot harder for anyone to do what the Russians did during the 2016 election and use fake accounts and pages to run ads."
Zuckerberg also said Facebook supports the Honest Ads Act, which he said will "help raise the bar for all political advertising online." The law would effectively make digital political ads subject to the same rules as television and radio ads.
Facebook has been shutting down accounts related to the Internet Research Agency, the Russian-controlled group that's been interfering in elections. Earlier in the week, Zuckerberg said they're trying to remove the group from Facebook entirely but acknowledged that "security is a never-ending battle."
Friday's announcements should help Zuckerberg, when he testifies before Congress next week, assure lawmakers that Facebook is taking steps to limit election interference on the site. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, commended the latest steps from Facebook.
"Most of the paid ads the Internet Research Agency ran on Facebook prior to the 2016 election didn't mention Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump - but they did mention divisive political issues like guns, LGBT rights, immigration, and racial issues," he said in a statement. "That's why today's announcement by Facebook is so important, and I would encourage all of the platform companies to follow suit."
Prior and related coverage:
- Facebook's mea culpa tour, Cambridge Analytica and GDPR: The data game is changing before our eyes
- Mark Zuckerberg: It's not hard to align Facebook's interests with user interests
- Facebook: Cambridge Analytica took a lot more data than first thought