Enforcement of Facebook’s Political Ad Restrictions Just Began in the U.K.

Legitimate news outlets will be exempted

The Palace of Westminster, the meeting place of the House of Commons and the House of Lords
GoranQ/iStock

Facebook announced in October that several of the initiatives regarding political advertising that were introduced in the U.S. earlier this year were being extended to the U.K., and enforcement of those policies began in the U.K. Thursday.

All advertisers seeking to run ads in the U.K. that reference political figures, political parties, elections, legislation before Parliament and past referenda that are the subject of national debate must verify their locations and identities, and those ads must include disclaimers indicating who paid for them.

When people click on that “Paid for by” label, they will be taken to Ad Library, the U.K. version of the Ad Archive that Facebook introduced in the U.S. in June, where they will be able to access information including the ad’s budget range, the number of people reached and other ads being run by that page. Political ads will be stored in the Ad Library for seven years.

Political ads that are not authorized will not be permitted to run on the social network, and applicable ads that run without the Paid for by label will be taken down and added to Ad Library.

People can report ads that they suspect are in violation by tapping the three dots in the upper-right-hand corner and selecting report, followed by, “it refers to a political candidate or issue,” after which Facebook will review those ads.

Leathern said the new policy may extend typical ad review times, adding, “This helps shine a brighter light on political advertising and offers a resource for news organizations, regulators, watchdog groups and the public to hold advertisers more accountable.”

He also revealed that ads from news outlets will no longer be included in Ad Library, saying that the news indexing process it introduced in September will be used to identify pages from legitimate news publishers.

Since the social network’s news indexing process has not been fully rolled out in the U.K., Facebook will not require eligible news publishers there to get authorized or include the Paid for by label, and their ads will not be included in Ad Library. Leathern said Facebook will use U.K. member lists from “a variety of established news industry groups” to determine when to grant exemptions until the news indexing process is completed sometime next year.

Leathern wrote, “We want to do all that we can to support journalism, and we know the inclusion of news ads has been problematic for a number of news organizations. We’ll also continue working with publishers, platforms and fact-checkers to increase safeguards and transparency in this area, which should lead to greater accountability for both Facebook and our advertisers.”

He concluded, “Enforcement on these ads will never be perfect, but we’ll continue to work on improving our systems and technology to prevent abuse. Uncovering who ultimately paid for a political ad is a challenge that goes beyond Facebook, but we know that we must make it a lot harder for bad actors to deceive or interfere on our platform.”