Facebook says it will block foreign-funded political ads to prevent Australian election interference

Drew Angerer/Getty ImagesMark Zuckerberg.

Facebook is placing a temporary ban on political advertising bought by foreign entities ahead of the Australian federal election in May in an attempt to head off potential moves to create unrest and influence voters.

Foreign entities are not prevented from buying political ads, but Australian law requires all election ads need to clearly identify their source. Facebook joins Twitter in banning foreign payments for political advertising for the election.

“The restriction will take effect the day after the election is called and will apply to ads we determine to be coming from foreign entities that are of an electoral nature, meaning they contain references to politicians, parties or election suppression,” Facebook director of policy for Australia Mia Garlick wrote in a blog post overnight.

“We also won’t allow foreign ads that include political slogans and party logos.”

Facebook is working with local political parties and non-government organisations who work on election transparency and has set up direct channels for them to report any concerns over ads which it will access and act on.

Facebook recently prohibited foreign-funded ads in the Indonesian presidential election campaign which go to vote on April 17.

Facebook has come under significant pressure globally for its platform being used by foreign entities to advertise, spread fake news and swell civil unrest.

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg was initially dismissive of the spread of fake news on the social media platform and its impact on the 2016 presidential election which saw the surprise victory of Donald Trump. However, he later came out to say he regretted dismissing concerns.

As part of a number of measures announced overnight, Facebook is updating its “ad library”, where all information about what pages have ads, when they were created, location of people who manage the pages and other identifying factors is stored in a searchable archive.

It is also partnering with Agence France-Presse to launch a fact-checking unit.

“We are committed to tackling all kinds of inauthentic behaviour and abuse on our platform from misinformation, misrepresentation and foreign interference, to phishing, harassment and violent threats. We know that all of these tactics can intensify during elections, which is why we invest in a combination of expert resources and technology to find, disrupt and remove this type of behaviour,” Ms Garlick said.

“We now have more than 30,000 people working on safety and security across Facebook, three times as many as we had in 2017. We have also improved our machine learning capabilities around political content and inauthentic behaviour, which allows us to better find and removing violating behaviour. Globally, we have removed thousands of pages, groups and accounts that engaged in co-ordinated inauthentic behaviour across our platforms, including recent takedowns in Australia.”

This article was originally published by the Australian Financial Review. Read the original here, or follow the AFR on on Facebook.

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