Facebook and Twitter are cracking down on political ads with new requirements and labels

  • Political and issue-based advertisers must now go through a verification process before they can buy ads on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
  • Both Facebook and Twitter are adding disclaimers to political ads that require them to disclose the company that paid for the ad.

After it was discovered that Russian operatives and firms like Cambridge Analytica gamed platforms to run political ads, both Facebook and Twitter have been under pressure to clean up their policies for political advertisers.

On Thursday, both Facebook and Twitter announced a handful of changes to how political ads are handled on both platforms aimed at making election and issue-based ads more transparent. Facebook’s updates in particular lift the hood a bit on how its advertising business works, including a feature that shows the budget behind a digital political campaign.

Facebook said that it will begin requiring ads in the U.S. related to elections and issues to be clearly marked with a “paid for” disclosure at the top of any ads on Instagram and Facebook – much like how political TV ads are required to include a disclosure. When users click on the disclosure, the ad pulls up additional information about the campaign, including the budget behind the promos and how many people have seen the ad as well as their age, gender, and location. All information from political and issue-related campaigns are stored in an archive for seven years that can be used to search and filter for specific campaigns.

The new requirements build on other measures that Facebook has taken over the past year to tighten up its procedures around fake accounts that purchase ads across Facebook and Instagram, including upping the number of followers required on Pages to run ads.

“We believe this new level of transparency is good for people and will allow journalists, researchers, NGOs and others to hold campaigns, candidates and organizations accountable for the ads they create,” said Rob Leathern, director of product management at Facebook, during a call with journalists.

Political tweets

Also on Thursday, Twitter launched a policy that details which organizations are considered political advertisers and how they purchase advertising on the platform. Political ads will now be marked with a disclaimer along the bottom with a note clarifying that the ad was purchased by an organization – much like the disclaimers on political TV ads. Twitter will also be vetting political-oriented accounts to make sure that they meet “stricter requirements” that include a profile picture, header photo, and a bio that links to a website with contact information. Additionally, foreign nationals will not be able to target ads to people who have a U.S. location.

Political advertisers on Twitter will have to undergo a new certification process before they’re allowed to buy ads. Candidates and committees are required to submit their FEC ID and will then be mailed a letter from Twitter to verify that the organization is legitimate. If organizations are not part of the FEC, they will go through the same process but include a notarized form instead of an ID.

“We believe transparency is key for both the people using our service and advertisers to feel confident in our platform,” wrote Twitter in a blog post. “As we stated last year, we are committed to enforcing stricter policies for political advertisers and providing clear, transparent disclosure for all ads on Twitter, with more details for political campaigning ads.”