Saturday, April 07, 2018

Facebook to vet Pakistan's political advertisers before 2018 elections

With important elections coming up in the US, Mexico, Brazil, India, Pakistan next year, one of my top priorities is to prevent interference, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg says


WASHINGTON: Political ads on Facebook will now be required to specify the person or entity paying for the message, the company's chief announced in a post on Friday as part of the bid to curb outside election interference, adding that it will verify the payer's identity as well.

The announcement is pertinent for Pakistan because general elections are scheduled to take place later this year. 

Mark Zuckerberg, the co-founder and chief executive of Facebook, said it was among his top priorities to make "sure we support positive discourse and prevent interference", especially "with important elections coming up in the US, Mexico, Brazil, India, Pakistan and more countries in the next year".

The popular social media giant, which is currently under fire for enabling manipulation of its platform in the 2016 US elections, said the new policy would require any messages for candidates or public issues to include the label "political ad" with the name of the person or entity paying for it.

Zuckerberg said his company supports the Honest Ads Act because "election interference is a problem that's bigger than any one platform" and that it would "help raise the bar for all political advertising online".

"To get verified, advertisers will need to confirm their identity and location. Any advertiser who doesn't pass will be prohibited from running political or issue ads.

"We will also label them and advertisers will have to show you who paid for them. We're starting this in the US and expanding to the rest of the world in the coming months," Zuckerberg wrote.

The social media platform's head informed users of a new tool his company has built recently "that lets anyone see all of the ads a page is running".

That feature, currently part of a beta test in Canada now, will be in addition to "a searchable archive of past political ads".

Another revision will be a prerequisite for Facebook administrators — people who own and run pages on the network and create content — to have their personal profiles verified with a blue tick mark by the company.

"This will make it much harder for people to run pages using fake accounts, or to grow virally and spread misinformation or divisive content that way," the tech executive noted.

"These steps by themselves won't stop all people trying to game the system," Zuckerberg said on his Facebook page. "But they will make it a lot harder for anyone to do what the Russians did during the 2016 election and use fake accounts and pages to run ads."

"Earlier this week, we took down a large network of Russian fake accounts that included a Russian news organization," he said.

To do so, Facebook would "hire thousands of more people", meaning that the changes are likely to be implemented this year, according to Zuckerberg, ahead of the US mid-term elections in November.

A separate Facebook statement said the changes would help improve the network's transparency and accountability since "when you visit a page or see an ad on Facebook, it should be clear who it's coming from".

"We also think it's important for people to be able to see the other ads a page is running, even if they're not directed at you. […] Advertisers will be prohibited from running political ads — electoral or issue-based — until they are authorised."

The announcement comes ahead of Zuckerberg's appearance before the US Congress, next week, to answer questions about the harvesting of personal data on 87 million users by Cambridge Analytica working Donald Trump's presidential campaign.