RKN Global on transparency of political ads in social media

Twitter and Facebook have recently announced new features that enable users to view information about political ads on their platforms.

Making it easier to identify political ads

Twitter has made it easier for its users to identify political campaign ads and to know who paid for those ads. This feature comes to the platform after the threat of U.S. regulation over the lack of disclosure on ad spending.

Initially, only U.S. federal election campaigning ads will be displayed, according to the announcement, but in the future, the company is planning to make all advertisements searchable. The ad transparency tool follows the company’s recently launched political campaign ad policy.

Last month, Facebook started a searchable archive of U.S. political ads. The data provided by both social media platforms on ads will include information on ad spending, impression data per tweet, and billing.

Both companies will include disclaimers and labels on ads with political content. Furthermore, Facebook is planning to release a political ad archive for Brazil in advance of the country’s upcoming election in October.

Political ads policy causing controversy among news organizations

Facebook’s new political ads policy has caused controversy among news organizations. David Chavern, CEO and President of News Alliance, said in an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, that Zuckerberg’s plan groups quality publishers together with political advocacy organizations and thus dangerously blurs the lines between real reporting and propaganda.

Chavern stated that “It is a fundamental mischaracterization of journalism that threatens to undermine its ability to play its critical role in society as the fourth estate.”

Non-U.S. citizens are banned from publishing political ads aimed at U.S. citizens under the new political ads policy, and people wishing to publish political ads to U.S. Facebook users must go through a certification process. According to a report from the ad buying platform 4C, Facebook’s advertising revenue has hiked 69% year-over-year for the first quarter of 2018 despite scrutiny over its advertising and data protection practices.

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