Making good on a recent promise by CEO Mark Zuckerberg and in preface for an appearance before lawmakers next week, Facebook has unveiled changes to its advertising platform to boost transparency and authenticity.
“We're going to make advertising more transparent, and not just for political ads,” Facebook Vice President of Ads Rob Goldman wrote in a blog post, noting that transparency is critical to democracy.
Facebook- along with other online platforms - came under fire after it revealed an internal investigation found that a Russian "troll farm" bought ads from the social media giant and apparently planted them, some in targeted markets, "to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum — touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights," company CSO Alex Stamos wrote in a blog post at the time.
The revelations prompted the “Honest Ads Act,” sponsored by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz.; Mark Warner, D-Va.; and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and which presses online companies like Facebook and Google to make “reasonable efforts to ensure that foreign individuals and entities are not purchasing political advertisements in order to influence the American electorate" and would amend “the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002's definition of electioneering communication to include paid Internet and digital advertisements.”
Goldman outlined said Facebook is striving to make all ads transparent to its users.
“Starting next month, people will be able to click “View Ads” on a Page and view ads a Page is running on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger — whether or not the person viewing is in the intended target audience for the ad,” he wrote, noting that the company will roll out the features out in Canada first, then in the U.S. before the mid-term elections. “All Pages will be part of this effort, and we will require that all ads be associated with a Page as part of the ad creation process.”
The social media giant will build an federal election ad archive – all ads over a rolling four-year period will be searchable; total spends will be provided as will the number of impressions and demographics on the target audience. Political advertisers will also have to verify their identities.
“For political advertisers that do not proactively disclose themselves, we are building machine learning tools that will help us find them and require them to verify their identity,” Goldman wrote.
Earlier in the week, Twitter announced the steps it was taking to make political and issues-oriented advertising more transparent.