Facebook Closes Political Ads Loophole Ahead of US Presidential Election

Facebook said on Tuesday it would affix labels to political adverts shared by users independently feeds, closing what critics have said for years was a glaring loophole in the company’s election transparency measures.

The world’s biggest social networking has attached a “paid for by” disclaimer to political adverts since 2018, after facing a backlash for failing continually to stop Russia from having its platforms to influence the 2016 US presidential election.

But the label disappeared once people shared the ads for their own feeds, which critics said undermined its utility and allowed misinformation to keep spreading unchecked.

“Previously the thinking here was that these were organic posts, and so these posts did not necessarily need to contain information about ads,” said Sarah Schiff, a Facebook product manager overseeing the change.

After receiving feedback, Schiff said, the company now considers it important to disclose if a post “was at one point an ad.”

Facebook introduced a similar labelling approach for state press earlier this month, but that label also sometimes drops off with sharing and doesn’t appear when users post their own links to those outlets.

The company is facing demands to do more to combat false viral information prior to the November 3 presidential election, including by presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, who last week called on Zuckerberg to reverse his decision to exempt political adverts from fact-checking.

Zuckerberg has touted transparency tools in response, arguing that voters should be able to examine statements from would-be political leaders unimpeded.

In a USA Today op-ed on Tuesday, that he pledged to show a Voting Information Center at the top of US users’ news feeds. He also said the organization would try to help 4 million people register to vote, double its goal for 2016.

© Thomson Reuters 2020

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