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Meta will enforce ban on AI-powered political ads in every nation, no exceptions

With several nations expected to hold elections next year, Meta confirms its generative AI advertising tools cannot be used for campaigns targeting specific services and issues.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor
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Meta says its generative artificial intelligence (AI) advertising tools cannot be used to power political campaigns anywhere globally, with access blocked for ads targeting specific services and issues.

The social media giant said earlier this month that advertisers will be barred from using generative AI tools in its Ads Manager tool to produce ads for politics, elections, housing, employment, credit, or social issues. Ads related to health, pharmaceuticals, and financial services also are not allowed access to the generative AI features. 

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This policy will apply globally, as Meta continues to test its generative AI ads creation tools, confirmed Dan Neary, Meta's Asia-Pacific vice president. 

"This approach will allow us to better understand potential risks and build the right safeguards for the use of generative AI in ads that relate to potentially sensitive topics in regulated industries," Neary told ZDNET in an email. 

Several nations are expected to hold elections next year, including general elections in Indonesia and India, and presidential elections in the US, Finland, Pakistan, and Taiwan.

Meta -- whose social media platforms include Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Threads -- has flagged AI as a top priority and plans to add generative AI capabilities across all these platforms. 

Its Ads Manager tool is touted as a launchpad for running ads on the platforms, offering an "all-in-one tool" for creating, managing, and tracking ads. A sandbox was introduced in May to provide a testbed for Meta's new generative AI tools for advertisers, including background generation, text variation, and image outcropping. With text variation, for instance, advertisers can generate multiple versions of text to engage with different audiences. 

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The company also unveiled an AI chatbot, called Meta AI, that includes an AI image generator tool called Emu. These images can be rendered and used across Meta's chat platforms including WhatsApp and Instagram. 

Asked about the adoption rate of its AI products, Neary said more than half of advertisers are using the company's Advantage+ tools to optimize images and text in their ad creatives. Its ad tools have helped advertisers clock a $10 billion run rate from Advantage+ shopping campaigns, he added, citing figures shared by Meta's CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg during the company's recent earnings. There also has been a three-fold increase in advertisers using Advantage+ shopping campaigns weekly, compared to six months ago. 

Further emphasizing the role of AI, Neary noted that 20% of content on Facebook and Instagram Feeds now are recommended by AI. 

Concerted efforts were made more than a year ago to show more relevant content powered by recommendation engines, rather than content organized around people followed by Meta users. AI also powers better outcomes for marketers, with tools such as Advantage+ suite automating their tasks, Neary said.

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"We believe every connection is an opportunity for business [and] we see this across our platforms," he said. Some 3.96 billion use at least one of Meta's services each month, with 3.14 billion tapping at least one service on a daily basis. About 40% of its users reside in Asia-Pacific, where mobile consumption is high, especially with messaging services, he noted. 

Asked how data across its products and services are integrated and used to train its generative AI tools, Neary said a variety of sources are tapped. 

"Generative AI models take a large amount of data to effectively train, so a combination of sources are used for training, including information that's publicly available online, licensed data, and information from Meta's products and services," he said. 

With publicly available online information, the datasets are filtered to exclude "certain websites that commonly share personal information," he said. Publicly shared posts from Instagram and Facebook, including photos and text, are part of the data used to train the generative AI models that power the features it announced earlier this year. 

"We didn't train these models using people's private posts. We also do not use the content of your private messages with friends and family to train our AI [tools]," he said. "We may use the data from your use of AI stickers, such as your searches for a sticker to use in a chat, to improve our AI sticker models."

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On how Meta is addressing the growing concern about AI safety and personal data use, Neary pointed to a dedicated cross-disciplinary team that is tasked to ensure its technology is designed and used responsibly. The team also gathers feedback from external experts and regulators, he added. 

With generative AI still in its early stages of development, he noted that Meta is making efforts now to collaborate with key stakeholders in the industry to "get this right". 

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