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When Facebook decided to archive political ads earlier this year, it took a very broad approach — opting to archive not just ads that promoted a specific candidate for office, but also ads that mentioned hot-button political issues, including immigration, health care, and the environment. This meant a lot of organizations that don’t consider themselves to be political groups — including news organizations — had their ads displayed alongside those that endorsed a candidate or party. Now, Facebook is carving out an exemption for news organizations.
In a blog post attributed to Facebook director of product management Rob Leathern, the company announced it has decided to stop archiving ads from news organizations it has vetted through its new indexing process. Initially, Facebook said all ads from news organizations that fell under its political and issue ad policy would be displayed alongside other political ads in its archive. Then the company said in September that it would create a separate “news section” for its ad archive. Now it has decided that the best policy is to let ads from legitimate news organizations run as they always have — without archiving them.
It’s worth nothing that this only applies to those Facebook has determined to be legitimate news organizations. To meet this criteria, an organization must primarily write about current events, rather than promotional content; routinely include proper sourcing, bylines, and dates on articles; and not “have a record of publishing articles that have been rated false by our third-party fact-checking partners.” Though Facebook is currently only running political ad archives in the U.S., U.K., and Brazil, the company said it will continue to exempt news organizations as it rolls political ad archives out to more countries.
When Facebook initially decided to include ads from news organizations in its U.S. political ad archives, the News Media Alliance, a group that represents nearly 2,000 news organizations, said that “by lumping journalism and issue advocacy together, Facebook is dangerously blurring the line between real reporting and propaganda and threatening to undermine journalism’s ability to play its critical role in society as the fourth estate.”
Facebook also announced today that it will start enforcing authorization requirements for U.K. advertisers who want to run political ads in the country. U.K. advertisers have to confirm their identity and include a “paid for by” label. Facebook will also include a reporting tool that allows users to report an ad if they think it’s missing a necessary “paid for by” label.
The company had initially intended to start enforcing these identity checks earlier in this month but delayed that after a Vice investigation found that their reporters were approved to run ads purporting to be “paid for by” other people or groups. Vice was approved to run ads that indicated they were paid for by “Mike Pence” and “ISIS,” among others. At the time, Facebook said “inaccurate disclaimers have no place on Facebook … enforcement isn’t perfect — and we won’t stop all people trying to game the system — but we have made it much harder, and we will continue to improve.”
Update, 7:30 a.m. Pacific: A Facebook spokesperson told VentureBeat that the company is adding a few new controls to ensure the “paid for by” label will be properly filled out in the U.K., including “additional review efforts before ads run to reduce the risk of impersonation of political figures” and “a limit to the number of times you can edit a disclaimer in 24-hour period.”
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