Science & Tech

Facebook Tightens Rules on Political Advertisers ahead of 2020 Elections

(Robert Galbraith/Reuters)

Facebook announced Wednesday that it will tighten its rules on political advertising ahead of the 2020 elections, in an attempt to crack down on election interference after insidious actors ran rampant on the platform in 2016.

The new rules will require groups to produce either their Employer Identification Number, a “government website domain” matching a .gov or .mil email address, or a Federal Election Commission identification number. Smaller businesses and local politicians who cannot provide one of those three will be allowed to provide a verifiable phone number and email address associated with their business website, Facebook said. Advertisers will be required to comply by mid-October or risk suspension from the platform.

The rules will enhance a previous set of regulations the social-media company rolled out last year requiring political advertisers to name and prove the identities of the groups behind their ads.

“While our efforts to protect elections are ongoing and won’t be perfect, they will make it harder for advertisers to obscure who is behind ads and will provide greater transparency for people,” Katie Harbath, Facebook’s public-policy director for global elections, wrote in a blog post announcing the new rules. “People should know who is trying to influence their vote and advertisers shouldn’t be able to cover up who is paying for ads.”

Facebook came under fire for negligence during the last presidential-election cycle, when it allowed Russian actors, among others, to spread misinformation and attempt to sow discord on the site. The company ramped up efforts to combat election meddling during the 2018 midterm elections, but some bad actors have continued to slip through the cracks.

Last week, Facebook said it had removed several accounts apparently run by the Chinese government as part of an effort to confuse and disrupt pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. The platform removed five Facebook accounts and seven pages with a combined approximately 15,500 followers, as well as three groups with about 2,200 members.

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