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Facebook Backs Legislation That Would Reveal Political Ad Buyers

Facebook offered up legislation late last week that would require social media companies to reveal the buyers of online political campaign ads as it tries to make right with the public after its latest data scandal with Cambridge Analytica.

According to a blog post by CEO Mark Zuckerberg, in addition to proposing the legislation, Facebook rolled out a new verification process for those buying ads that focus on an issue or can create discord on the social media company’s platforms.  In the blog post Friday (April 6), Zuckerberg said, “from now on, every advertiser who wants to run political or issue ads will need to be verified. To get verified, advertisers will need to confirm their identity and location. Any advertiser who doesn’t pass will be prohibited from running political or issue ads. We will also label them and advertisers will have to show you who paid for them. We’re starting this in the U.S. and expanding to the rest of the world in the coming months.”

The executive also announced that Facebook has created a new tool that lets anyone see all the ads a page is running. The tool is being tested in Canada at the current time and will launch globally this summer. He noted that Facebook will also create a searchable archive of political ads from the past. What’s more, Zuckerberg said the company is requiring that people who manage large pages on its platform are verified as well. “In order to require verification for all of these pages and advertisers, we will hire thousands of more people. We’re committed to getting this done in time for the critical months before the 2018 elections,” wrote the executive. “This will make it much harder for people to run pages using fake accounts, or to grow virally and spread misinformation or divisive content that way. These steps by themselves won’t stop all people trying to game the system. But they 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.”

Zuckerberg went on to call election interference a  problem that is bigger than any other issue on the platform, and that is why it is supporting the Honest Ads act.  The blog post comes as Zuckerberg is gearing up to testify before Congress next week in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, in which the political consulting firm accessed the data of as many as 87 million Facebook users without their consent. That was swiftly followed by outrage and calls to regulate the social media giant more. Investigations into the incident have been launched in the U.S. and U.K.

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