Facebook Is Taking Its Transparency Tools for Political Ads Worldwide

The initiative will begin with Ukraine, Singapore, Canada and Argentina

Advertisers seeking to run social issue, electoral or political ads must complete Facebook’s authorization process smartboy10/iStock

Facebook’s transparency tools regarding political ads on its platform are going worldwide.

“Elections are happening all over the world, and some happen with very little notice,” product manager Sarah Schiff said in a Newsroom post. “To that end, we are committed to requiring authorizations and disclaimers for social issue, electoral or political ads in more places around the world.”

The transparency tools debuted in the U.S. last May, and they were extended to the U.K. last November, India last December, the European Union in March, Australia in April and Canada earlier this month.

A full list of countries where the tools are now available can be found here, and Schiff said the initiative will begin with Ukraine, Singapore, Canada (previously announced) and Argentina.

She wrote, “Beginning today, we will systematically detect and review ads in Ukraine and Canada through a combination of automated and human review. In Singapore and Argentina, we will begin enforcement within the next few months.”

The process will be the same as in countries where the tools are already active.

Advertisers seeking to run social issue, electoral or political ads must complete Facebook’s authorization process, verifying who they are and what country they are based in.

Ads must include information on who paid for them.

And all ads will be stored in the social network’s Ad Library for seven years, where more information can be accessed by people (including those without Facebook accounts), such as range of spend and impressions and demographics of Facebook users who saw the ad.

Schiff said the authorization process will not change in countries where the tool is already active, and people who were previously authorized will not need to repeat the process.

Facebook’s Ad Library Report will be rolled out in countries once enforcement is in place, giving people the ability to track and download aggregate spend data across advertisers and regions.

Schiff wrote, “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. If we are made aware of an ad that is in violation of a law, we will act quickly to remove it. With the rollout of these tools, regulators are now better positioned to consider how to protect elections with sensible regulations, which they are uniquely suited to do.”

She added that in countries where Facebook’s political ad transparency tools have not yet been officially rolled out, candidates, office-holders and “other influential organizations” can still use the tools to provide constituents with more information about how the vote in those countries is being influenced.

Facebook’s Ad Library API (application-programming interface) is also being rolled out worldwide so that regulators, journalists, watchdog groups and other people can analyze ads and help hold advertisers and the social network accountable.

Schiff wrote, “Since we expanded access in March, we’ve made improvements to our API so that people can easily access all social issue, electoral or political ads from a given country and analyze specific advertisers. We’re also working on making it easier to programmatically access ad images, videos and recently served ads.”

And she concluded, “In addition to introducing improvements to our products, we’ll continue to partner with governments, civil organizations and electoral authorities to protect the integrity of elections worldwide. Our work to help protect elections is never done, but we believe changes like these continue to move us in the right direction.”

david.cohen@adweek.com David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.