Facebook has introduced yet another set of changes in the wake of a scandal caused by charges that Cambridge Analytica misused Facebook user data. In a blog post Friday, Facebook executives Rob Goldman and Alex Himel announced several changes and features they said would make advertisements and Pages more transparent.
The changes include required authorization and labeling of political and “issue” ads, and manager verification for large Pages. The company will also roll out a searchable political ads archive and a tool to see what ads a Page is serving that is already being tested in Canada.
The ad requirements will also apply to Facebook-owned Instagram, but the post did not mention any other Facebook entities.
Designed to stop future electoral abuse
Goldman, vice president of Ads, and Himel, vice president of Local and Pages, said that the social media platform was “slow to pick-up foreign interference in the 2016 US elections. Today’s updates are designed to prevent future abuse in elections — and to help ensure you have the information that you need to assess political and issue ads, as well as content on Pages. By increasing transparency around ads and Pages on Facebook, we can increase accountability for advertisers — improving our service for everyone.”
Also from the blog post:
We believe that when you visit a Page or see an ad on Facebook it should be clear who it’s coming from. We also think it’s important for people to be able to see the other ads a Page is running, even if they’re not directed at you. That’s why today we’re announcing important changes to the way we manage ads and Pages on Facebook as well as Instagram. These are designed to increase transparency and accountability, as well as prevent election interference.
Clarity around political and ‘issue’ ads
The company said it would extend requirements issued in October that required political advertisements on Facebook and Instagram to be authorized to include “… ‘issue ads,’ — like political topics that are being debated across the country.” These ads will be labeled “Political Ad” and will include “paid for by” information.
Advertisers can be authorized by confirming their identity and location. Testing on these features has begun, and the changes should start rolling out this spring.
The company will use artificial intelligence and add more personnel to find advertisers who slip through.
We realize we won’t catch every ad that should be labeled, and we encourage anyone who sees an unlabeled political ad to report it. People can do this by tapping the three dots at the top right corner of the ad and selecting “Report Ad.”
Facebook will also release a public, searchable political ads archive, which “contains all ads with the ‘Political Ad’ label, and will show the image and text, as well as additional information like the amount spent and demographic audience information for each ad.”
Transparency for Pages and their managers
The company has been testing a new “View Ads” feature that “lets you see the ads a Page is running — even if they are not in your News Feed. This applies to all advertiser Pages on Facebook — not just Pages running political ads. We plan to launch view ads globally in June.” The blog post did not indicate how “large” pages will be defined.
Today, we’re also announcing that people who manage Pages with large numbers of followers will need to be verified. Those who manage large Pages that do not clear the process will no longer be able to post. This will make it much harder for people to administer a Page using a fake account, which is strictly against our policies. We will also show you additional context about Pages to effectively assess their content. For example, you can see whether a Page has changed its name.
Just the latest change
This new feature is just the latest in a number of changes Facebook announced last month that it will be taking to address privacy concerns since the Cambridge Analytica scandal erupted. These changes included giving users the option to remove apps in bulk, restricting app developers’ access to user data, giving users more visibility to their apps from News Feed and taking more actions to safeguard user privacy.
On the ad side of its business, Facebook has blocked third-party data broker data from being used for ad targeting and removed audience reach estimates for Custom Audiences. This week, Facebook confirmed it was working on a new certification process for advertisers to verify that they have gained consent to use email addresses uploaded via Custom Audiences.
Next week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee and Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on Tuesday and before the Congressional House Energy and Commerce Committee panel on Wednesday to answer questions about the company’s data privacy policies.