Facebook Boosts Political Ad Disclosures

Facebook says it will extend its electoral ad authorization requirements on Facebook and Instagram to issue ads as well and take other steps to identify from where and from whom political ads are coming.

That comes in advance of CEO Mark Zuckerberg's planned testimony before Congress next week--both House and Senate.

"Last October, we announced that only authorized advertisers will be able to run electoral ads on Facebook or Instagram," Facebook execs blogged Friday (April 6). "[T]oday, we’re extending that requirement to anyone that wants to show “issue ads” — like political topics that are being debated across the country. We are working with third parties to develop a list of key issues, which we will refine over time. To get authorized by Facebook, advertisers will need to confirm their identity and location. Advertisers will be prohibited from running political ads — electoral or issue-based — until they are authorized."

They acknowledged the company was slow in picking up on foreign interference in the 2016 elections, saying the changes were meant to prevent future abuses--as the important midterm elections approach.

They said those issue ads will be clearly labeled "Political Ad" and will display "paid for by" information, starting later this spring.

Related: FEC Proposes New Political Ad Disclosure Rules

In June, the company will release a searchable archive of political ads.

"“Most of the paid ads the Internet Research Agency ran on Facebook prior to the 2016 election didn’t mention Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump – but they did mention divisive political issues like guns, LGBT rights, immigration, and racial issues," responded Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) to Facebook's extension of disclosures to issue ads. "That’s why today’s announcement by Facebook is so important, and I would encourage all of the platform companies to follow suit as we work toward making the Honest Ads Act the law of the land, ensuring that political ads sold online abide by the same disclosure rules as TV and radio ads.”

Warner is vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and a big backer of the Honest Ads Act.

The bill is aimed at keeping Russian election-meddlers off the political ad roles of Web sites like Facebook, Twitter and Google, and harmonize the disclosures of legitimate political ads across all platforms.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.