This week Facebook announced that it was introducing new tools in order to ensure that there is a consistent transparency across Politically motivated adverts on their platform. There are also certain new rules introduced that will mean that your identity, location to the company and importantly who has paid for it will all need to be proven in order to run a political ad. But what does this mean on a wider scale?
Another aspect that Facebook are introducing will be an online archive that will allow everyone to see all of your previous ads, roughly how much you have spent and who they reached. This can be searched by anyone regardless of their status as a member on Facebook or not. This system has been in place already in the US and Brazil and now Facebook has been forced to take more action following the controversy surrounding ads that it allowed to be shown during both the US presidential election in 2016 and the UK’s EU referendum.
We have already talked about Fake News across social media and the prevalence it has in determining certain mindsets and influences; and it seems that this wasn’t just happening organically. In the United States, there were thousands of Russian-bought adverts attempting to create a discord among the election campaigns and now the Silicon Valley giant have been pressured into making sure that the same mistakes weren’t realised ahead of the mid-terms in November.
How will this work?
The first time that a publisher wants to create an advert that specifically features political parties, figures, elections, legislation before parliament and past referendums (i.e. Brexit or Scottish Independence) they must go through a verification process including the submission of a passport, driving license or residence permit. This will be checked and verified by a third-party organisation.
Continuing with the theme of Fake News, the new system will allow users to report a political ad as fake news which will be submitted to Facebook for review. If it is deemed that the ad is indeed Fake News then it will be taken down – but this isn’t the end; Ads that have broken the rules will remain in the archive so that you can check how many people the advert reached before it was removed.
Will it even work? Are there ways around it?
Last week, Facebook removed more than 500 pages and 250 accounts that were identified as containing “sensational political content” and were spamming users to gain attention as the mid-term elections in November approached. The social network suggested that the particular motive behind the material were financial rather that political and were designed to encourage users to click on them; effectively they were saying that they were designed to be “clickbait” – something Facebook has tried to cut down on anyway recently.
The new rules won’t necessarily show who may have broken the UK’s laws on election spending – the message on the ad must show who has paid for the advert but not where that money had been sourced from. Facebook explained that this was a job for the Electoral Commission to investigate not the social media giant.
So what’s next for the political ads agenda on Facebook?
Facebook now say that “the goal is to make it transparent, so that people can see that – not after the fact, but while the campaign is going on” – Rob Leathern, the executive in charge of the initiative. In the United States it has been recorded that over 1 million political ads have been recorded in the new archive since the scheme was launched in late May.
In terms of the spending in the UK, there will most likely be a pretty low spend at the moment unless we have a snap election (all eyes on the Brexit negotiations!) but we can expect Facebook’s ad archive to become an essential tool – not just for the parties themselves but for their oppositions to try and work out what the specific plans are for each party.
Credibility and bespoke design
This credibility measure that Facebook have implemented will help to ensure that people trust Facebook and the content that is posted or advertised on their platform. This is also adaptable with the ability to introduce into your business. By having bespoke software built especially for your business, it shows that not only are you looking to speed up efficiency and improve profitability but also you are able to have a system that does exactly what you need it to, including reporting and showing metrics both internally and externally.
So is this move of transparency something reserved for the big Silicon Valley elite or is it an adoption that we should all be making the move towards?