Facebook's political ad verification tool goes global

Facebook wants to "combat foreign interference in elections worldwide"

Facebook is making its transparency tools for political ads globally available, more than a year after rolling out the first iteration of the tool in the US following the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Starting Tuesday (25 June), ads on Facebook around social issues, elections or politics appearing in 140 countries and territories will have a "paid for by" disclaimer and sit in Facebook's Ad Library archive for seven years.

The tool is already available in 50 countires and territories. Facebook said it's "expanding proactive enforcement" now given approaching elections or regulations in Ukraine, Singapore, Canada and Argentina.

Facebook product manager Sarah Schiff wrote in a blog post that the company "will not be proactively detecting or reactively reviewing" ads in countries other than Ukraine, Singapore, Canada and Argentina at this time.

"However, we strongly encourage advertisers in those countries to authorize and add the proper disclaimers, especially in a rapidly evolving regulatory landscape," said Schiff.

Facebook announced it would begin authenticating politcal ads in the UK last October, which the company almost immediately reviewed following a series of examples showing the system was open to abuse.

Facebook, now spread across the globe, seems to be putting much of the compliancy onus on advertisers. The social giant will react and remove content, but advertisers must first understand the electoral intricacies of each country the operate in.

"In all cases, it will be up to the advertiser to comply with any applicable electoral or advertising laws and regulations in the countries they want to run ads in," said Schiff. "If we are made aware of an ad that is in violation of a law, we will act quickly to remove it. With these tools, regulators are now better positioned to consider how to protect elections with sensible regulations, which they are uniquely suited to do."

The same expectation of collective cooperation applies to use of Facebook's Ad Library archive, which allows one to track and download aggregate spend data across advertisers and regions.

"We know we can’t do this alone, which is why we’re also rolling out access to our Ad Library API globally so regulators, journalists, watchdog groups and other people can analyze ads about social issues, elections or politics and help hold advertisers and Facebook accountable," said Schiff.

According to eMarketer, Facebook and Google account for 60% of digital ad spend in the US. A group of left-leaning, right-leaning and centrists digital publications recently formed an aliance to win back ad dollars from the duopoly as the advertisers ramp up for the 2020 election.

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