Pro-Brexit ads throw spotlight on Facebook’s political ad transparency pledge

Pro-Brexit ads throw spotlight on Facebook’s political ad transparency pledge

A little-known pro-Brexitgroup has thrown Facebook’s much vaunted political ad transparency promises under the spotlight after spending £88k on advertising promoting Britain’s departure.

Britain’s Future has targeted the social platform with a series of politically-charged messages warning of alleged threats to Britain such as visa-free travel for Turkey while promoting a ‘brighter, global future’ beyond the EU.

A weekly report from Facebook highlighted that the group became the largest UK political advertiser on the platform in the last week, splashing out £31k on over 200 ads over the past seven days alone.

The report also revealed accounts associated with running the ad. Tim Dawson, a former scriptwriter for BBC Three sitcom Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps, was outed as the only public figure associated with the campaign.

However, what Facebook doesn't reveal is the source of the group’s funding, which the tech giant would ague is an issue of UK law and a matter for the Electoral Commission.

Facebook’s Richard Allan defended the policy, saying: “We have taken an industry-leading position on political ad transparency in the UK, introducing new tools that go beyond what is currently required of us by law and further than anywhere else that allows political advertising. This includes a 'paid for by' disclaimer that requires an advertiser to accurately represent who is running that ad, and our Ad Library that archives political ads for seven years.

"We also publish a weekly report detailing ads run and top spenders across our platforms. This information gives everyone the ability to easily find out information about the Pages running political ads and direct questions to them. This is exactly why we have introduced this industry-leading solution: to bring more transparency to political ads on the platform and encourage people to ask questions.”

Facebook introduced tighter transparency rules on political advertising last year in response to widespread alarm at abuses reported during the 2016 US presidential election. These require all political ads to be labelled and archived for seven years but do not force advertisers to detail the source of their income, but verify that those placing the ads live at a UK postal address.

Facebook was forced to review its political ad verification processes just weeks after being launched following abuses.

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