Facebook expands transparency on political ads, but still won’t ban fake ads

The updated Facebook Ad Library will allow users to control the frequency of political ads on the news feed.

Facebook has made changes to its political ads policy. Its Ad Library section has been expanded with features to bring in more transparency over the kind of ads that appear on the user’s timeline. However, the social media giant won’t be clamping down on potential misinformation in ads from politicians.

Facebook. Reuters

Facebook. Reuters

In a lengthy post, Facebook spoke about how it consulted with several political campaigners, activists, NGOs, nonprofits and volunteers to bring about changes to its ad policy. Claiming that transparency was the most sought after feature, it added several updates to its Ad Library.

Facebook’s Ad Library section allows users to see all the ads that have been run on the platform by politicians and all the campaigns actively running on the platform. This includes Instagram as well and also all the previous campaigns. Essentially, it’s a publicly available database of political ad campaign history on Facebook.

First off, it will display the size of the audience that the advertiser or politician intended to reach with an ad. Better searchability for ads has been added so that users can search for them using exact phrases. The search results can be filtered by parameters including audience size, dates, regions reached, etc. These changes are expected to arrive in the first quarter of 2020.

In the future, Facebook is planning to add the feature to allow users to hide from custom lists of advertisers so that those ads aren’t displayed on their timeline. Also, the platform will roll out better control over how often users see political ads on their timeline.

Facebook ended the post by addressing its political ads policy. It pointed out that Twitter decided to ban political ads completely and also mentioned about Google which limited its reach. It argued, “we don’t think decisions about political ads should be made by private companies, which is why we are arguing for regulation that would apply across the industry.”

The company has faced serious criticism, even from lawmakers, against its decision to not fact-check political ads on the platform, essentially allowing the spread of misinformation. Although Facebook was expected to make changes to its policy considering the US Presidential election is closing, it hasn’t really addressed the main concern.

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