April 6 (UPI) — Though Congress has yet to pass legislation requiring that political ads sold online be subject to the same rules as print and broadcast ads, Facebook announced Friday it would hold advertisements sold on its platform to those rules.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that any advertiser who wants to run a political or issues ad must first be verified by the social media network — this includes their identity and location. Advertisers behind such ads must also reveal who paid for the ads to viewers.
Zuckerberg said the new requirements would start in the United States and expand to the rest of the world “in the coming months.”
After the 2016 U.S. presidential election, political ads on social media networks like Facebook and Twitter came under scrutiny since U.S. law doesn’t require them to identify who paid for an ad. This means foreign actors would be able to purchase an ad targeting a U.S. election without viewers of said ads knowing.
U.S. law says it’s illegal for foreign nationals to contribute to U.S. political campaigns, including the funding of ads.
Facebook, Twitter and Google said they discovered scores of ads and phony accounts linked to Russia, some of which explicitly mentioned the election. Others broached divisive topics like racism, gun control and immigration.
“With important elections coming up in the U.S., Mexico, Brazil, India, Pakistan and more countries in the next year, one of my top priorities for 2018 is making sure we support positive discourse and prevent interference in these elections,” Zuckerberg said in a post announcing the changes.
He said Facebook plans to build a searchable archive of past political ads and institute a tool to let users see the ads a page is running.
In October, Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., John McCain, R-Ariz., and Mark Warner, D-Va., unveiled the Honest Ads Act, which would require that political ads sold online be subject to the same rules as ads sold on television, radio and satellite. Klobuchar praised Facebook’s action Friday but called for a vote on her legislation.
“These are steps in the right direction but we must pass my bill and hold tech companies to the same standards as everyone else. A patchwork of voluntary fixes is not enough,” she said.
In October, Twitter also announced plans to be more transparent about who pays for political ads.
In addition to identity verification of advertisers, Zuckerberg said Facebook also will require proof of identification for people who manage large pages.
“This will make it much harder for people to run pages using fake accounts, or to grow virally and spread misinformation or divisive content that way,” he said.
Zuckerberg said Facebook expects to hire thousands of people to verify accounts.
The announcement comes as Zuckerberg prepares to testify at a House Energy and Commerce Committee meeting Wednesday about the personal data of 87 million Facebook users that was improperly used by Cambridge Analytics to post political advertisement for Trump during his campaign.
Also Friday, consumer groups announced they filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission over Facebook’s use of facial recognition software — which suggests photo tags for people the software recognizes. They said Facebook uses the technology and “routinely scans photos for biometric facial matches without the consent of the image subject.”