With the U.S. presidential election coming in 2020 and with Facebook’s (NASDAQ:FB) reputation still tarnished after 2016 when misinformation and fake political ads dominated the newsfeed, it announced new steps to crack down on anyone trying to use the platform for political maleficence.
Whether these moves will be enough to quiet the public outcry from regulators, lawmakers, and privacy advocates who want it to overhaul how it handles customers’ data is up for debate. After all, Facebook can’t seem to protect its own customers’ data, let alone election advertisements. Just this week, it confirmed personal data (including phone numbers) from more than 400 million users was sitting on an unprotected server accessible to anyone online. It also recently agreed to pay the Federal Trade Commission $5 billion, the largest fine levied against a tech company, because of its lackluster privacy practices.
In a blog post last week, Facebook announced that organizations trying to buy advertisements related to politics or social issues on Facebook and Instagram will have to go farther than before to prove their identity.
Under the old guidelines, those seeking to buy political ads have to prove who they are and where they’re based in the U.S. Under the new guidelines beginning in October, organizations will also be required to provide a tax ID number, a government website domain that matches an email ending in .gov or .mil, or a Federal Election Commission identification number. Advertisers who don’t have those credentials are required to provide a verifiable phone number, business email address, mail deliverable address, and business website that has a domain that matches the email. Facebook is giving advertisers a few weeks to comply.
Facebook wrote in the blog post:
Starting mid-September, advertisers will need to provide more information about their organization before we review and approve their disclaimer. If they do not provide this information by mid-October, we will pause their ads. While the authorization process won’t be perfect, it will help us confirm the legitimacy of an organization and provide people with more details about who’s behind the ads they are seeing.