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Facebook Political Ads Policy Attempts to Bring More Transparency Ahead of General Elections in India

Facebook is also adding more ownership details for Pages running the political adverts in India.

Social media platform Facebook is introducing new measures to bring an added layer of transparency to the political advertising on the platform in India. The implementation of the Political Ads Policy comes ahead of the General Elections in India. The wide ambit of the new guidelines will cover ads that reference political figures, political parties, elections and ads that advocate for or against legislation.

As part of the new process, new political adverts on the Facebook platform will now be accompanied with "Published by" or "Paid for by" disclaimers as specified by the advertisers at the time of buying the ad space. The idea is to give Facebook users a better idea of who has paid for the advertisement that they are seeing on their timeline. Facebook says that users will also be able to access a searchable Ad Library to learn more about ads related to politics, including range of impressions, the money spent on promoting the advert and demographics of who saw the ad.

Facebook says that that the Political Ads Policy will come into effect from 21 February. The social network confirms that only advertisers who have completed authorizations and specified disclosures about who's responsible for any ad, will be allowed to run political ads on the social network in India. “We will remove political ads running without a disclaimer in News Feed and will place them in the Ads Library,” says Facebook.

“Our systems won't catch every political ad that runs — so reports from others will be key. If people come across an ad and think it should include a disclaimer, they can tap the three dots at the top right-hand corner of the ad, and select “Report ad.” If we find the ad relates to politics, we'll remove it and add it to the Library, where it will be accessible for seven years,” says Shivnath Thukral, Public Policy Director, India & South Asia, Facebook.

Facebook is also adding more transparency to the ownership of Pages running the political adverts in India. Facebook says that from this month, users will be able to see the primary country location of the people who manage the Pages which are running or paying for political ads in India. This information will be available in the “Info and Ads” section for the specific page, along with all the ads the Page is currently running. The idea is to make it more difficult for anyone to administer or operate a Page using a fake or unverified account on the platform. As a first step, users who manage Pages with what Facebook describes as “a large audience in India” will need to secure their account with two- factor authentication and confirm their primary country location to be able to continue to post to their Pages.

The implementation of the Political Ads Policy and the additional verification checks for those running Pages with political adverts, comes ahead of what is being seen as the most critical general elections in India in a long time. Over the past few months, social networks including Facebook and Twitter as well as the Facebook owned instant messenger WhatsApp have been criticized for their perceived lack of effort in clamping down on fake and unverified news which was being shared using their platforms.