LS polls 2019: Facebook to tell users who paid for, published political ads

Ahead of upcoming general elections, Facebook on Thursday further updated its policy for political advertising in the country and said it would add disclaimers about who paid for or published an ad and would make more data available about these ads on Facebook and Instagram. 

The changes, which will come into effect on February 21, were detailed in a blogpost by its India and South Asia Public Policy Director Shivnath Thukral and Product Manager Sarah Schi.

Beginning Thursday, people will begin to see political ads with 'published by' or 'paid for by' disclaimers. Along with this, Facebook will add a searchable ad library, which will be accessible to people to learn more about ads related to politics, including impressions (the number of times an ad is seen and loaded on a webpage), spend, and demographics of who saw the ad. 

"In the coming weeks, people will start seeing the country locations of the people managing pages that run political ads to better understand the origin of the page," Thukral and Schiff said.

In December, Facebook had said anyone who wants to run an ad in India related to politics will need to first confirm their identity and location, and give more details about who placed the ad, thereby becoming an authorised advertiser.

On Thursday, it said authorised advertisers can name themselves, a (Facebook) page they run or another organisation as the entity behind the ad. If they name another organisation to place an ad, Facebook will require them to provide some other form of authentication -- like a phone number, email and website or a media certification and monitoring committee certificate from India's Election Commission.

The Menlo Park-headquartered social networking giant is under fire in its home country, the US, for allowing political ads from Russia that allegedly influenced voters and swung the election in President Donald Trump's favour.

"This month, we'll start showing the primary country location of the people who manage pages running or paying for political ads in India. This information can be found in the page's 'Info and Ads' section, along with all the ads the page is currently running, even if they're not targeted to you," Facebook said on Thursday. 

Facebook is also facing flak from several countries, including the UK and the European Union, for its data collection and usage practices.

It also urged users to report ads which they feel should carry a disclaimer.

Facebook had introduced the "paid for" feature last year in the US as well but a study claimed the efforts had not made much impact, and the attempt at self-regulation had actually made the problem worse for political ads spreading misinformation on the platform.

As India prepares for general elections, there are growing concerns over the spread of fake news, misinformation, and targeted political messaging that Facebook is attempting to fix with these latest measures.  

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