Facebook to Make Political Ads Transparent Ahead of 2019 Polls

Facebook is changing the way its Indian users will see ads related to politics.

“This is key as we work hard to prevent abuse on Facebook ahead of India’s general elections next year,” said a statement released by Facebook on Thursday, 6 December, announcing measures to increase ad transparency.

"“Now 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.”" - Facebook statement "“The identity and location confirmation will take a few weeks so advertisers can start that process today by using their mobile phones or computer to submit proof of identity and location. This will help avoid delays when they run political ads next year.”" - Facebook statement

Also Read: Fake News on WhatsApp: How FB’s Free Basics Broke Brazil Election

Political Ads to Carry Disclaimers

In addition, from early 2019, Facebook says it will “start to show a disclaimer on all political ads that provides more information about who’s placing the ad, and an online searchable Ad Library for anyone to access”.

In an interview with The New York Times earlier this year, Facebook Co-Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg had highlighted that the social media giant would make efforts to counter its irresponsible use during the Indian elections.

"“We have a responsibility to do this. Not just for the 2018 US mid-term elections. There’s a big election in India, there’s a big election in Brazil, there are big elections around the world. You can be assured that we’re really committed to doing everything that we need to, to make sure that the integrity of those elections on Facebook is secured.”" - Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and Co-Founder, Facebook, in the interview to CNN in March 2018.

Also Read: The Indians Who Are Trying to Answer WhatsApp’s Fake News Problem

Google, Facebook, Twitter Fight Fake News in India

Last month, all three US tech giants – Google, Facebook and Twitter – promised to do more to fight fake news in India, while refusing to provide any definite timeline for bringing in tougher actions that could eliminate the menace of fake news from their platform.

Participating in a panel discussion hosted by BBC’s Matthew Amroliwala at the Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi, the representatives of the three top technology companies outlined the actions they were taking to fight misinformation on its platform. Fake news, the three executives said, were not in the interest of their business.

Last week, Facebook-owned WhatsApp said it has conducted extensive research with users in India, and then developed three ad films that are based on a real user's experience.

"“The three films will be available on TV, Facebook, and YouTube in nine languages and reach the diverse population that makes up WhatsApp users. The campaign is timed to start just prior to the elections in Rajasthan and Telangana, and WhatsApp will build on this effort headed into the national election next year.”" - WhatsApp statement

WhatsApp, which has been slapped with two notices by the government earlier this year to check the spread of fake news, has taken a series of measures, including restricting the number of forwards and added a ‘forward’ label to help users identify such messages. It is also in the process of establishing a local corporate entity.

Besides, WhatsApp continues to strengthen its spam detection capabilities and ban accounts that engage in unwanted automated activity.

The company has, however, not accepted government’s demand for traceability of messages, saying creating such a software will go against the idea of user privacy and end-to-end encryption.

Also Read: ‘Facebook Used Data to Block Rivals’: UK Releases Execs’ Emails

With general elections slated to be held next year in India, the government is taking a tough stance on use of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp for spread of misinformation.

The government had warned WhatsApp that it will treat the messaging platform as abettor of rumour propagation and legal consequences will follow if adequate checks are not put in place.

Facebook was recently blamed for playing a troubling role in boosting far-right Congressman Jair Bolsonaro to into the Brazilian presidency.

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