Facebook are acting to further tighten their rules on political advertising via their platform. According to a New York Times article, they will check the authenticity of those organisations running political adverts. The question is, how will this change affect countries other than the USA?
Facebook first took action last year in the wake of the revelations about Cambridge Analytica and the Russian interference in the 2014 and 2016 US elections. They maintain a political advert archive, require political adverts to carry the name and details of those who have placed them and release details of who has spent what money on such advertising. The latest changes come after accusations were made that some adverts were being labelled with the names of fake companies, thus hiding the real advertisers. In future, Facebook says, organisations will need to prove who they are before being allowed to advertise.
Whilst acknowledging that Facebook have taken positive action to try to limit disinformation, it’s impossible to ignore the multitude of problems that remain in the system. In particular, Facebook have seemed intent on rolling out a single regulatory framework for their platform across the entire world. This ignores that each country has its own unique electoral laws. Imposing (US-centric) rules does not help authorities in other countries ensure that their local laws are being obeyed.
This latest strengthening might indicate a departure from that ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach as it is difficult to imagine that the company will have the ability to check the bona fides of organisations advertising in, for example, Montenegro, Tunisia or Sri Lanka. So the question is, will this be an approach that only applies to the USA or does it indicate a willingness to address the specific needs of each country, starting with the US?