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Facebook revises its political ad rules

Thursday, Aug 29, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Axios

Experts estimate that well over $1 billion will be spent on digital ads this campaign cycle, with the majority going to Facebook and Google. For context, that’s about as much as analysts expect to be spent on local cable television ads this cycle.

* AP

Facebook is tightening its rules around political advertising ahead of the 2020 U.S. presidential election, acknowledging previous misuse. But it’s not clear if it will be enough to stop bad actors from abusing its system.

The changes include a tightened verification process that will require anyone wanting to run ads pertaining to elections, politics or big social issues like guns and immigration to confirm their identity and prove they are in the U.S. Beginning in mid-September, such advertisers confirm their group’s identity using their organization’s tax identification number or other government ID.

The verified group name will be listed on the “paid for by” disclaimers that disclose the backers of ads. Facebook says it will verify this information against government records and will note in the disclaimer for confirmed ads that they’re placed by a “confirmed organization.” […]

Advertisers who don’t have tax ID numbers, government websites or registrations with the Federal Election Commission will still be able to post ads by providing an address, verifiable phone number, business email and website. These advertisers won’t get a “confirmed” designation. Previously, only a U.S. address was required. But it’s not inconceivable that bad actors will find a way to spoof phone numbers and email addresses.

* Barron’s

Ads that advocate for or against legislation or ballot initiatives will have the same vetting process as campaign ads.

The company also intends to bar ads that expressly discourage people from voting.


Last year, Vice News reported that it was able to take out [Facebook] ads in the name of Vice President Mike Pence, all 100 US senators and the Islamic State. In another high-profile instance from 2018, an attack ad targeting Virginia Democratic candidate for Congress Jennifer Wexton was shown by Facebook to have been paid for by a “freedom loving American Citizen exercising my natural law right, protected by the 1st Amendment and protected by the 2nd Amendment.” […]

But it’s not clear whether the new rules would prevent a group or person from simply registering as a company, getting a tax identification number and going forward with their advertisements without ever having to really tell Facebook users who they truly are and what their motivation is. In response to questions about the potential loopholes, Facebook told CNN Business the additional information will be vetted by a mix of automated and human reviewers and that it is working with governments and watchdogs to bolster election security. […]

The new rules will be put into effect in mid-September, and if an advertiser doesn’t provide the new information by mid-October, Facebook said, it will pause an organization’s ads.

* NY Times

Disinformation experts said the social network was still far from fixing the damage caused by the false news and ad campaigns that had run on the platform.

“This is all much too little, much too late,” said Dipayan Ghosh, a fellow at the Shorenstein Center at Harvard and a former privacy and public policy adviser at Facebook. “We’ve seen incredible impacts coming from illegitimate political ads, including from seemingly legitimate actors. And companies, particularly Facebook, are not doing enough to protect the public and our democracy.”

He added that Facebook’s new verification policy amounted to “incremental baby steps forward.” That would “not particularly position us well in the lead-up to elections,” he said.

* Business Insider

The corporate ownership disclosure laws are not as strong in the US, and in some states, it’s possible to create anonymous LLC’s without providing identity or much ownership information at all.

That’s not something Facebook can necessarily fix - but it is still a way for sketchy operations to run political advertisements on Facebook and provide little information about who they actually are.

“At a certain point, Facebook won’t be able to do any more verifications because the US allows secret LLCs,” Carroll told Business Insider. “At that point it’s up to Congress to require corporate ownership disclosures like we see in UK on Companies House.”

* Tech Crunch

It will turn its attention to Pages, too, by requiring national candidates or elected officials to go through Page Publishing Authorization, to verify their Pages are using real accounts and are based the U.S. Facebook will then begin exposing more information about the Page, including the business or organization behind it.

* Related…

* Facebook Ad Prices Surge Due to Barrage by Democratic Presidential Hopefuls


  1. - A Jack - Thursday, Aug 29, 19 @ 1:22 pm:

    When I see a political ad in Facebook, I mark to as “Do not show due to factual inaccuracies.” I figure since its a political ad it is a given that the ad will contain factual inaccuracies regardless of the party.

  2. - Precinct Captain - Thursday, Aug 29, 19 @ 1:51 pm:

    Facebook is poisonous. It allows racially discriminatory advertising, including for housing, and most entities can get away with breaking its ad rules. Judd Legum has been covering how often the President’s campaign has broken Facebook’s rules and you have to imagine many others are doing it too.

  3. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Aug 29, 19 @ 3:00 pm:

    Man, I put a lot of effort into this post for two comments. lol

  4. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Aug 29, 19 @ 3:09 pm:

    === I put a lot of effort into this post for two comments. ===

    I think, for me, looking at social media trying to regulate ads and news and information, I’ve come to the conclusion that while The Facebook, and others, try to find what makes sense in ads, the problem now is the toxicity, which has turned me off from any and all ads I see on their platforms?

    Thanks for this post. I did read it.

  5. - A Well-Regulated Commenter - Thursday, Aug 29, 19 @ 3:18 pm:

    ==Man, I put a lot of effort into this post for two comments. lol==

    You inspired me to file for several federal tax IDs, as a test (wink/nod/etc.)

  6. - Bruce (no not him) - Thursday, Aug 29, 19 @ 5:13 pm:

    I know that facebook has to do something, but, anyone who gets their political information from there has to have several screws loose. I have friends from both sides of the political aisle on there, who post some of the most bizarre memes and links. My wife wont let me correct most of them, because she doesn’t want to alienate friends. But it is so tempting.

  7. - @misterjayem - Thursday, Aug 29, 19 @ 7:14 pm:

    “Facebook is tightening its rules around political advertising ahead of the 2020 U.S. presidential election, acknowledging previous misuse. But it’s not clear if it will be enough to stop bad actors from abusing its system.”

    “[I]t’s not inconceivable that bad actors will find a way to spoof phone numbers and email addresses.”

    It is blindingly clear that it will not be enough.

    – MrJM

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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