Facebook to vet UK political ads during 2019 elections
Facebook said it will make sure political ads on its platform will be vetted and transparent in time for England and Northern Ireland's 2019 local elections, the company has said.
Only verified accounts will be allowed to pay for political ads, and users will be able to view all promotions paid for by a campaign -- not just those targeted to them based on their demographic or "likes."
"We're going to provide a searchable archive of all of those ads, and show who paid for them," Facebook Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer told a UK parliamentary committee Thursday.
Schroepfer is the latest to give evidence to UK lawmakers as part of an investigation into fake news and its impact on elections, in the wake of revelations that vast swathes of Facebook user data were shared with British data firm Cambridge Analytica.
The CTO said Facebook ads would be labelled as "political," and that all promotions would be available to be searched in an archive the social network will keep available for seven years. Data in the archive will also show how many people may have seen each ad, and how much was paid for their display.
In a tense exchange between Damian Collins, head of the committee, about whether Facebook users can choose not to see ads from specific political parties or campaigns, Schroepfer said "there's no category-by-category opt-out," but that individuals could choose not to see specific ads once they've been shown them once.
Collins was not impressed. "That's a weak tool to stop people getting messaging they don't want," he said, and suggested he thought political advertising and related user preferences should be treated very differently to those concerning general consumer interests.
The lawmaker asked why Facebook didn't spot Russia's use of the social network to target voters sooner. "We were slow to spot that," Schroepfer said, adding, "I'm way more disappointed in this than you are."
The claim prompted laughs from around the interview room and a subsequent apology from the CTO. "It's a high bar," Collins replied.
Schroepfer said that while he was giving evidence, "we'll likely be blocking hundreds of thousands of attempts by people from around the world trying to create accounts with automated systems."
The parliamentary committee interviewing Schroepfer has also recently heard evidence from whistle-blower Christopher Wylie, former Cambridge Analytica executive Brittany Kaiser, and Aleksandr Kogan, the researcher who shared Facebook user data with Cambridge Analytica.
Ousted Cambridge Chief Executive Officer Alexander Nix refused to appear before the committee earlier this month, after previously agreeing to. Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg also said in March that he will not appear and that Schroepfer would fill this request.