Facebook launching ad transparency effort to inform Israeli voters

The social network will be cracking down on fake news and paid political ads from outside sources ahead of the Knesset elections.

February 26, 2019 16:24
2 minute read.
A picture illustration shows a Facebook logo reflected in a person's eye

A picture illustration shows a Facebook logo reflected in a person's eye. (photo credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC/ILLUSTRATION/FILE PHOTO)


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Facebook has moved up the launch of a political ad transparency mechanism to be available before the April 9 election, the social network announced on Tuesday.

The service is meant to prevent foreign and non-political actors from influencing the election by placing ads on Facebook.
The tool is currently available in the US, UK, India and Brazil and is set to be rolled out internationally at the end of this year. Its launch in Israel is expected to take place in mid-March, several months earlier than it goes global, in light of the upcoming election.

Sean Evins – Facebook’s head of Politics and Government Outreach in Europe, the Middle East and Africa – said the company was unable to launch earlier than that because the tool is customized for each country.

“It’s not a one-size-fits-all product; it doesn’t look the same everywhere,” because of varying election laws and language, he explained.

Facebook’s efforts in this area began because it “realized we were a little too slow to act in the 2016 [US] elections,” Evins said.

“The first thing we needed to do is lock the doors and  stop these fake accounts from getting all over the platform,” he explained.

The tool, expected to launch next month, is meant to go beyond those efforts by limiting who can post political ads and providing access to all political ads in a given country.

Facebook has defined political ads as those advocating or opposing candidates in an election.

In order to post a political ad in Israel, the person seeking to do so will have to confirm his or her identity with Facebook by providing government-issued ID.

Non-Israelis will not be able to take out ads for or against Israeli candidates, and all political actors will have to go through this process to post the advertisements.

Starting next month, all political ads will feature a disclaimer with the name of the account that funded them.

Facebook will also make a searchable archive available of all advertisements ordered by political actors going back seven years.

Evins said the social network has already used artificial intelligence and machine learning to document the patterns that fake accounts use, and says they now automatically remove 99.6% of them at the point of creation, amounting to over a billion fake accounts in six months. In addition, they have over 30,000 security experts working on this task.

In January, Facebook removed 783 pages from Iran “for coordinated inauthentic behavior” targeting several countries, including Israel.

Evins also described Facebook’s effort to reduce the dissemination of false news stories. Most users posting about politics are “engaging in robust debate,” Evins posited, while a lot of fake stories are economically motivated.

Therefore, in addition to removing actors who repeatedly violate Facebook’s policies, they changed its algorithm so that the news feed emphasizes social interactions as opposed to pages looking to monetize clicks.

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