Facebook launches tools to improve political ad transparency in UK

The social network is introducing authorisation requirements for those wishing to post political adverts to the site.

Press Association
Last updated: 17 October 2018 - 2.00pm

Facebook is introducing tools it says will increase transparency around political advertising on the platform in the UK.

The social media network announced a new authorisation scheme to approve organisations before they can run political adverts on the site.

It is also extending its Ad Library to include the UK, which will show all adverts currently being run by a page or organisation on Facebook and Instagram for up to seven years.

The company said the new tools are part of a commitment it made during appearances before the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) earlier this year to offer more transparency around political advertising.

(Facebook)
(Facebook)

It comes after the platform was scrutinised for its policies towards advertising as questions had been raised over the use of online ads, particularly around the last US presidential election and the EU referendum in the UK.

On the new measures, Facebook’s vice president of global public policy Richard Allen, alongside director of product management Rob Leathern, said: “From today, all advertisers wanting to run ads in the UK that reference political figures, political parties, elections, legislation before Parliament and past referenda that are the subject of national debate, will need to verify their identity and location and carry a ‘Paid for by’ disclaimer.

“We see this as an important part of ensuring electoral integrity and helping people understand who they are engaging with. We recognise that this is going to be a significant change for people who use our service to publish this type of ad.

“While the vast majority of ads on Facebook are run by legitimate organisations, we know that there are bad actors that try to misuse our platform. By having people verify who they are, we believe it will help prevent abuse.”

In response, Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright said: “The Government is taking action to tackle disinformation in the UK to ensure people can tell the difference between fact and fabrication.

“Online platforms should be taking the most effective steps they can to ensure transparency and I look forward to seeing the impact of these political advertising measures by Facebook.”

(Facebook)
(Facebook)

The authorisation system will require those wishing to post political adverts to verify their identity using a driving licence or passport, as well as their location by inputting a code sent to them via post.

The social media site said this data would be deleted once confirmation had taken place, with the data kept for a maximum of 30 days.

The Ad Library will enable anyone – whether or not they use Facebook – to search for and access the political advertising history or any Facebook or Instagram page or by search term.

“This will include a range of the ad’s budget and number of people reached, and the other ads that page is running,” Mr Allen and Mr Leathern said.

“The library is completely searchable and, as of today, can now be accessed by anyone in the world regardless of whether they have a Facebook account or not at facebook.com/ads/archive.

“We believe that increased transparency will lead to increased accountability and responsibility over time – not just for Facebook but for advertisers as well.”

The systems have already been introduced in the US and Brazil ahead of elections in both countries.

Facebook said it wanted to have the system up and running before any future election in the UK.

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