In the runup to the 2020 presidential election Facebook shared additional steps it is taking to help ensure campaign ads are properly attributed and vetted.
Katie Harbath, Facebook’s public policy director, global elections, said the changes include strengthening the authorization process for U.S. advertisers and showing users more information about each advertiser. This includes placing a “paid for by” disclaimer on ads and the advertiser must provide additional information about itself, which will be reviewed by Facebook, to ensure the advertiser is being honest about their identity. This requirement will kick in by mid-September and if the additional information is not provided within 30 days the ad will be pulled.
The additional information is a U.S. street address, phone number, business email and a business website matching the email, along with tax-registered organization identification number (i.e. EIN), a government website domain that matches an email ending in .gov or .mil. and a Federal Election Commission (FEC) identification number.
“While the authorization process won’t be perfect, it will help us confirm the legitimacy of an organization and provide people with more details about who’s behind the ads they are seeing,” Harbath said.
The need for additional identification material could also be triggered if Facebook deems a non-campaign-related ad goes beyond a certain level of discourse. Harbath used recycling as an example. Those placing ads that simply encourage people to recycle would not require to give more background data, but those placing ads that advocates for or against things like legislation or a ballot initiative will have to further clarify their organization.
Due to the rather nebulous nature of this new rule, Facebook expects to refine the policy going forward.
Facebook has additional election security plans in the works and in the coming months will release details on:
- Enhancements to our Ad Library, such as making it easier to track and compare spending of US presidential candidates.
- Expanding its policy to prohibit ads that expressly discourage people in the U.S. from voting.
- Requiring all Pages for national candidates or elected officials to go through Page Publishing Authorization.
- Exposing more information about a Page, such as the business or organization behind it.
These moves are part of Facebook’s attempt to rectify passed problems that included allowing thousands of ads placed by the Russian Internet Research Agency during and after the 2016 election to influence American votes.