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Facebook is making it harder to use ads to mess with the 2020 election

August 28, 2019
Facebook's logo taking up an entire open laptop screen
Facebook's logo taking up an entire open laptop screenAssociated Press

Facebook will demand more information about organizations seeking to run political ads starting in mid-September.

Such as? Businesses and nonprofits will have to provide a tax-registered organization identification number, while government advertisers will have to provide a web domain or email address ending in .gov or .mil. Parties and political action committees will be required to hand over their Federal Election Commission identification number, Facebook said in a blog post.

Record-keeping: Facebook already requires some information from organizations seeking to run ads on politics in the US, including identification to confirm who they are and where they are located. They also must place a “paid for” disclaimer on ads. However, this system has repeatedly been shown to be unfit. Vice magazine managed to buy ads “paid for” by Mike Pence and ISIS, while Mother Jones showed that the disclaimers are lost when content is shared: a huge loophole.

The bigger picture: Facebook was forced to act as evidence amassed that it had displayed ads during the 2016 US Presidential election campaign and the UK's EU referendum paid for by Russian groups trying to sow discord. We still don’t fully understand the impact of Facebook advertising on elections, and it still hasn’t released data to researchers trying to establish the facts, despite promising to back in April.

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