Facebook and Instagram launch US political ad labeling and archive

Facebook today revealed that it’s chosen not to shut down all political ads because that could unfairly favor incumbents and candidates without resources to buy pricey TV ads. Instead, it’s now launching its previously announced “paid for by” labels on political and issue ads on Facebook and Instagram in the U.S. and its publicly searchable archive of all these politics-related ads that run in the U.S. That includes ads run by news publishers or others that promote articles with political content.

The labeling won’t just apply to candidate and election ads, but those dealing with political issues such as “abortion, guns, immigration or foreign policy.” Clicking through the labels that appear at the top of these News Feed ads will lead to the archive, which isn’t backdated and will only include ads from early May 2018 and after. The archive will hold them for seven years so they can be searched by keyword or the Page that ran them. It also will display the ad’s budget, and the number of people who saw it, plus aggregated, anonymized data on their age, gender and location.

Any advertiser that wants to run political ads must now go through Facebook’s authorization process that requires them to reveal their identity and location, and advertisers will only have a week’s grace period starting today before those unauthorized will have their ads paused. Facebook plans to monitor political ads with a combination of artificial intelligence and 3,000 to 4,000 newly hired ad reviewers as part of its doubling of its security team from 10,000 to 20,000 this year.

The reviewers and AI will analyze these ads’ images, text and the outside websites to which they point to look for political content. They’ll seek to avoid bias in classification by following guidelines on what constitutes one of 20 political issues from the decades-running Comparative Agendas Project. Users also may report unlabeled ads, which will then be reviewed, paused and archived if they’re deemed political. Their buyer will then be required to go through the authorization process before they can buy more.

As part of work with Facebook’s new commission investigating social media’s impact on elections, it plans to provide a database available via a forthcoming API that will let watchdog groups, academics and researchers review how ads are being used. These tools will open to other countries in the following months, and Facebook plans to make all ads visible to everyone through a tool launching in June that’s now testing in Ireland and Canada.

Facebook’s chief product officer Chris Cox writes that “We hope that in aggregate these changes will be a big step to improve the quality of civic engagement in our products, and to…

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