Facebook To Expand Transparency Around Political And Social Issue Ads In Australia

APRIL 8, 2018: Phone sitting on laptop with Facebook desktop site reflecting on screen. The social media giant's stock has dipped sharply since the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
B&T Magazine
Edited by B&T Magazine

Facebook has announced the expansion of initiatives focused on increasing transparency and controls around social issues, electoral, and political ads in Australia.

According to a blog post from Facebook, while political ads play an important role in every election, customers have said they want the option to see fewer of these on their Facebook and Instagram feeds.

Earlier this year, they announced a new control feature that allows people to have more control over the ads they see on Facebook.

This feature gives people a choice to see fewer social issues, electoral, and political ads with “Paid for by” disclaimers in Australia.

To enable the social issue, electoral, and political ads control feature, people can adjust their ad topic preferences:

  1. Visit Ad Preferences then click ‘Ad Topics’.
  2. Under the list of ‘Ad Topics’, you’ll see a list of topics including ‘Social Issues, Elections or Politics’.
  3. Across from ‘Social Issues, Elections or Politics’, click ‘See Fewer’.

People can also turn on this control by clicking on the top of these ads in their feed and they will stop showing them ads about social issues, elections or politics that include a disclaimer.

They are also expanding the proactive enforcement of social issue ads to Australia.

Since last August, advertisers in Australia that want to run electoral and political ads were required to go through the authorization process using government-issued photo ID, and place ‘paid for by’ disclaimers on their ads.

This includes any person creating, modifying, publishing or pausing ads that reference political figures, political parties or elections. Ads will also be entered into the Ad Library for seven years.

From June 29, these requirements will also apply to advertisers that choose to run social issue ads that seek to influence public opinion through discussion, debate or advocacy for or against important topics, such as civil and social rights, crime, environmental politics, education or immigration.

Any political, electoral or social issue ads on Facebook that do not have the correct authorisation or disclaimers will be removed from the platform and archived in a public Ad Library for seven years.

These additional transparency features for people on Facebook and Instagram and mandatory requirements for advertisers will help promote safe and healthy debate on influential topics, so that people can better understand who’s trying to influence them with ads.

Facebook is doing this because they believe that the discussion of ads about social issues, elections or politics deserves transparency.

Extending their industry-leading transparency to now cover social issue ads is part of a commitments as a founding member and signatory to the voluntary Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation and Misinformation.

The Code — led by industry association for the digital industry in Australia, DIGI — is an industry effort to help reduce misinformation online, and has been prepared at the request of the Australian Government.

Other Australian specific commitments Facebook has committed to include:

  • offering additional support to the Australian Government to direct people to authoritative information about the vaccine rollout, including a substantial provision of ad credits and the offer to build a vaccine finder service in Australia
  • expanding third-party fact-checking partner capability within Australia in 2021
  • funding Australia-specific research and program partnerships by independent experts and academics on media literacy, misinformation and disinformation in 2021

Featured Image: iStock/David Tran

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