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Facebook revises policies to clarify who buys political ads

By Nicholas Sakelaris
Facebook revises policies to clarify who buys political ads
The policy change sets multiple requirements to buy political advertisements across the social platform. File Photo by Gian Ehrenzeller/EPA-EFE

Aug. 28 (UPI) -- Facebook said Wednesday it's changing company policies to add transparency and clarify exactly who pays for political advertisements that appear on its social platform.

The company said it wants to avoid a repeat of the 2016 election, in which Russian actors spread disinformation and encouraged divisiveness online through targeted ads.

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"People should know who is trying to influence their vote and advertisers shouldn't be able to cover up who is paying for ads," Facebook said in a statement Wednesday. "Today, we're sharing additional steps we're taking to protect elections and prepare for the U.S. 2020 election."

Facebook began requiring "paid for by" disclaimers last year, but said advertisers often filled them with misleading information.

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"Starting mid-September, advertisers will need to provide more information about their organization before we review and approve their disclaimer," the company said. "If they do not provide this information by mid-October, we will pause their ads."

Groups must provide a U.S. street address, phone number and matching business contact information. They must also provide either a tax registration number, a government website domain or Federal Election Commission identification number. Qualified ads will carry a "Confirmed Organization" tag.

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Facebook said smaller advertisers unable to meet the general mandate can still buy ads if they have a verifiable phone number, business email, mailing address and matching business website. They will carry an "about this ad" tag.

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Public Policy Director Katie Harbath said it's difficult for Facebook to verify donor information because it doesn't hold legal authority to do so. She also said Facebook is pushing for more government regulation of the issue.

Facebook also said it will more explicitly target ads that encourage readers not to vote, as it did for the midterm elections last year.

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