SAN FRANCISCO • Facebook has said it would affix labels to political ads shared by users on their own feeds, closing what critics have said for years was a glaring loophole in its election transparency measures.
The social network has attached a “paid for by” disclaimer to political ads since 2018, after facing a backlash for failing to stop Russia from using its platforms to influence the 2016 US presidential election.
But the label disappeared once people shared the ads to their own feeds, which critics said undermined its utility and allowed misinformation to continue spreading unchecked.
“Previously the thinking here was that these were organic posts, and so these posts did not necessarily need to contain information about ads,” Facebook product manager Sarah Schiff said on Tuesday. After receiving feedback, the company now considers it important to disclose if a post “was at one point an ad”, she added.
Facebook introduced a similar labelling approach for state news media earlier this month, but that label also sometimes drops off with sharing and does not appear when users post their own links to those outlets.
The company is facing demands to do more to combat false viral information before the Nov 3 presidential election, including by presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, who last week called on Facebook chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg to reverse his decision to exempt political ads from fact-checking.
Mr Zuckerberg has touted transparency tools in response, arguing that voters should be able to examine statements from would-be political leaders unimpeded.
In a USA Today op-ed on Tuesday, he pledged to display a Voting Information Centre at the top of US users’ news feeds. He also said the company would aim to help four million people register to vote, double its goal for 2016.
The company also removed almost 900 accounts associated with the far-right Proud Boys and American Guard, including those belonging to Proud Boys supporters who marched into a protest zone in Seattle on Monday and confronted anti-racist demonstrators.
Facebook said the removal of more than 500 Facebook accounts and more than 300 Instagram accounts followed a smaller round of suspensions two weeks ago.
“We initially removed a set of accounts for both organisations on May 30 when we saw that both organisations started posting content tied to the ongoing protests,” said a Facebook spokesman.
Facebook had previously banned the groups for promoting hate, but individual members continued to post images with weapons and urge others to attend protests that followed the Minneapolis killing of black American George Floyd in police custody.