Facebook Tightens Paid Ad Rules Ahead of EU Elections

January 28, 2019 Updated: January 28, 2019

BRUSSELS—Facebook said on Jan. 28 it will strengthen its rules and safeguards around political advertisements to prevent foreign interference in elections, including those in Europe this year.

The world’s largest social network has faced pressure from regulators and the public after last year’s revelation that British consultancy Cambridge Analytica had improperly acquired data on millions of U.S. users to target election advertising.

Fears about misinformation and interference have intensified with elections due this year for the European Parliament and several EU countries, including Belgium and Finland.

“We will require those wanting to run political and issue ads to be authorized, and we will display a ‘paid for by’ disclaimer on those ads,” Facebook’s recently appointed head of global affairs Nick Clegg told a news conference.

Clegg, a former British deputy prime minister hired by Facebook in October last year, said the new tools to be launched in late March aim to help protect the integrity of European Union elections due to be held this spring.

Facebook said that the transparency tools for electoral ads would be expanded globally before the end of June, while the tools would be in rolled out in India next month before its elections and in Ukraine and Israel before polls in both.

“We now have more than 30,000 people working on safety and security across the company, three times as many as we had in 2017,” the company said in a statement.

The new tools are similar to those adopted for the U.S. mid-term elections, Clegg said, with all political ads stored in a publicly searchable library for up to seven years.

This will contain information such as the amount of money spent and the number of impressions displayed, who paid for them and the demographics of those who saw them, including age, gender, and location.

The new tools will also cover ‘issue ads’ which don’t explicitly back one candidate or political party but focus on highly politicized topics like immigration.

Facebook said it will also set up two new regional operations centers focused on monitoring election-related content in its Dublin and Singapore offices.

“These teams will add a layer of defense against fake news, hate speech, and voter suppression,” it said.

By Foo Yun Chee

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