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