Singapore—On September 26, Thursday, Facebook announced that it has taken steps to ensure more transparency for socio-political advertising on its social media platforms in Singapore.
This comes on the heels of the announcement from the Elections Department regarding the forming of the committee to review electoral boundaries at present, which signifies the first move towards the upcoming General Election, which must occur before April 2021.
An example of the steps the social media giant has taken is that any individual or organization running advertisements on Facebook or Instagram which have to do with social issues, elections or politics in Singapore will be required to confirm identity via legal documents such as a passport or ID card. They must also give their location to prove that they are based in Singapore.
Furthermore, the party responsible for the ad is required to disclose their name, their organization’s name, or Facebook page they manage as part of the information in the “Paid for By” disclaimer of ads of this nature.
The disclaimer will also feature the person or organization’s phone number, email address or website.
Channel NewsAsia (CNA) reports Katie Harbath, Facebook’s public policy director for global elections, as saying, “These requirements hold advertisers accountable for the ads they run on Facebook and Instagram.”
These measures are already mandatory in 40 other areas where Facebook is present, which include India, The European Union and the United States.
Facebook has come under fire due to foreign interference campaigns on social media having influenced elections in different countries.
Nick Clegg, the Vice President of Global Affairs and Communications for Facebook said on Tuesday, September 24, “It is no secret that Facebook made mistakes in 2016, and that Russia tried to use Facebook to interfere with the election by spreading division and misinformation. But we’ve learned the lessons of 2016. Facebook has spent the three years since building its defenses to stop that happening again.”
Facebook also said that ads of a socio-political nature would be kept in an “Ad Library” for seven years, with information concerning the funding of the ad, as well as the number and other demographic data concerning the viewers, to be made public.
Ms Harbath said, “In addition, we will introduce the Ad Library Report within the next few weeks, which provide people who aren’t as technical with similar information about ads related to social issues, elections or politics related to social issues, elections or politics.”
In his speech on Tuesday Mr Clegg also said,
“Of course, stopping election interference is only part of the story when it comes to Facebook’s role in elections. Which brings me to political speech.
Freedom of expression is an absolute founding principle for Facebook. Since day one, giving people a voice to express themselves has been at the heart of everything we do. We are champions of free speech and defend it in the face of attempts to restrict it. Censoring or stifling political discourse would be at odds with what we are about.
At Facebook, our role is to make sure there is a level playing field, not to be a political participant ourselves.
We have a responsibility to protect the platform from outside interference, and to make sure that when people pay us for political ads we make it as transparent as possible. But it is not our role to intervene when politicians speak.
That’s why I want to be really clear today – we do not submit speech by politicians to our independent fact-checkers, and we generally allow it on the platform even when it would otherwise breach our normal content rules.”/ TISG
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