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Facebook will label political ads, verify users who want to run them

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Amid ongoing backlash against Facebook for the use of its platform for fake news, meddling in election, and for unauthorised access to users’ data, the company has announced new controls for building transparency on its site.

Facebook will label all political and issue ads, and include information about who paid for them. It will also mandate verification of identity and location of anyone who wants to run such ads. This announcement takes forward Facebook’s plan to authenticate American political ads, which was announced last October. Now, the measure will be rolled out worldwide for political ads as well as the broader segment of “issue” ads.

There are some other additions:

  • Facebook is testing a tool that lets anyone see all of the ads a page is running. This is being tested in Canada and will be launched globally this summer.
  • It is also creating a searchable archive of past political ads.
  • The company will mandate verification for people who manage large pages in its attempt to make it more difficult for pages to be run using fake accounts or to “grow virally and spread misinformation or divisive content that way”.

Founder Mark Zuckerberg said in a post that the company will hire many more people to execute the verification. He added, “(these measures) will make it a lot harder for anyone to do what the Russians did during the 2016 election and use fake accounts and pages to run ads. Election interference is a problem that’s bigger than any one platform, and that’s why we support the Honest Ads Act. This will help raise the bar for all political advertising online.”

Just a few days ago, Facebook had announced another feature to prevent spreading of fake news. It said it was rolling out a feature that provided more information on both publishers and articles that users see in their News Feeds. The feature adds context to news posts, showing shown the source’s Wikipedia article, related articles, and a map showing where (and by whom) the story has been shared before.

Platform abuse

Facebook has be mired with controversy for the past year or so, since reports revealed its possible role in meddling of the US elections and spread of misinformation. A recent revelation by a whistleblower where political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica improperly accessed information of nearly 87 million users, led to questions from governments and Facebookers alike. The Indian  government also sent a show cause notice to Facebook seeking details of whether the personal data of Indian voters and users has been compromised in this alleged breach. It asked for details on whether the data obtained from Facebook has been used to manipulate the Indian electoral process.

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In response to the controversy, the social media giant announced sweeping changes to the way third-party developers can interact with Facebook via APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), the software layer through which third parties can interact with and extract data from the platform.

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