Facebook was heavily criticized by millions of US voters over the way it handled the last US election. Of course, you already know by now that the last US election was won by President Donald Trump in a circumstance that attracted severe criticism from the opposition. There were obvious allegations of external meddling and influence from foreign countries; Russia in particular. To ensure a situation where users will again be influenced by Russia, Facebook has begun labeling political ads.
Last year, Facebook promised to not only look into the root cause of the problem, but come up with lasting solutions to prevent future reoccurrence. A new election dashboard, according to Recode, is being rolled out to allow users to see who paid for a political ad. In addition to this, there will be demographic information that enable users to see those who viewed the ads. Political advertizers will also be required to register with Facebook in order to confirm both their location and identity with the social media company.
People in the US will be able to see who’s running a political ad, how much money was spent on it, how widely it was seen, and who the ad reached — for example age, gender and location. Advertisers will also have to share who paid for the ad. This is part of a broader authorization process, announced last year, that lets us verify that the people running these ads are who they claim to be. Helping people to understand who’s trying to influence their vote will help us better defend against foreign interference and other abuse, Facebook said.
Facebook had in an official statement to the Congress last year, detailed how the company had unknowingly sold ads space to Russian operatives whose intention was to influence the last presidential elections in the US. The company disclosed this after concluding investigation—tracing $100,000 to a “troll farm” in Russia.
The statement to the US Congress followed a white paper the social media company published in April 2018 where it outlined how “organized attempts” were made by misuse its platform. In an official statement issued by Alex Stamos, Facebook’s Chief Security Officer, the company elaborated on how the investigation went:
One question that has emerged is whether there’s a connection between the Russian efforts and ads purchased on Facebook. These are serious claims and we’ve been reviewing a range of activity on our platform to help understand what happened.
Stamos added that the social networking giant looked for ads that might have had its origin in Russia in that current review. The company tagged this as broad search—extending its search to ads bought with from accounts having US IPs, but with different language set to Russian. Though, such accounts did not in any way violated the company’s policy or law. This part of the review, according to Stamos, uncovered “approximately $50,000 in potentially politically related ad spending on roughly 2,200 ads,” he said.