We are soon going to have a lot more info on which politicians run ads on Facebook and who they target.
That’s because in light of the Russia-linked-ads-on-Facebook investigation, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has pledged to adopt new levels of advertising transparency and cooperation with investigators.
When politicians advertise on TV, they have to reveal who is paying for ads. That’s because those TV ads are overseen by the Federal Communications Commission, which spells out a lot of regulations on political ads. Such as:
In the case of any television political advertisement concerning candidates for public office, the sponsor shall be identified with letters equal to or greater than four per cent of the vertical picture height that air for not less than four seconds.
It’s why you see at the end of such ads quick lines such as “I’m Donald Trump and I approve this message.” TV stations have to maintain a public file of all political advertising.
On the web, this has not been the case to date. In light of the ongoing Russian investigation, Democrats in the House and Senate have been pushing the Federal Election to ratchet up disclosure standards for digital political ads, Business Insider reported.
Facebook is essentially moving to take this matter into its own hands. Thus, among Zuckerberg’s newly outlined nine steps, he wrote:
Going forward — and perhaps the most important step we’re taking — we’re going to make political advertising more transparent. When someone buys political ads on TV or other media, they’re required by law to disclose who paid for them. But you still don’t know if you’re seeing the same messages as everyone else. So we’re going to bring Facebook to an even higher standard of transparency. Not only will you have to disclose which page paid for an ad, but we will also make it so you can visit an advertiser’s page and see the ads they’re currently running to any audience on Facebook. We will roll this out over the coming months, and we will work with others to create a new standard for transparency in online political ads.
So during next year’s midterm elections or in the 2020 presidential race, it won’t be very easy for a politician to keep his or her Facebook ad strategy quiet. If Zuckerberg and his team follow through, journalists, ad buyers, and political opponents should be able to click on a few links and find out who is buying which ads (candidates, the RNC, super PACs, etc) and what kinds of audiences they are targeting.
That may mean we’ll see a lot of copycat targeting tactics. It also may force some politicians to be more careful about the kinds of messages they are associated with on Facebook, since they’re sure to be under far more scrutiny than in 2016.
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