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Facebook To Require Disclosure Of Those Who Buy Political Ads

Mark Zuckerberg said that from now on, political ads will have to link to the Facebook page that bought the ad. (file photo)
Mark Zuckerberg said that from now on, political ads will have to link to the Facebook page that bought the ad. (file photo)

Facebook, which has been under pressure for running ads purchased by Russian operatives during last year's U.S. presidential campaign, has announced that in the future it will require public disclosure of who is behind such ads.

"I don't want anyone to use our tools to undermine democracy," Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post on September 21. "That's not what we stand for."

The change in policy at the world's largest social network came as Facebook said it would provide copies of the 3,000 ads purchased by Russian operatives to committees of the U.S. Congress that are investigating whether Russia interfered in the election.

Zuckerberg said that going forward, political ads will have to link to the Facebook page that bought the ad. And users will have to be able to visit the page and see all the ads they are currently running to any audience on Facebook.

"When someone buys political ads on TV or other media, they're required by law to disclose who paid for them," Zuckerberg said. Now, people encountering ads on Facebook will get the same information, he said.

Facebook's new policies have a potential impact worldwide, as people in many countries encounter political messages when they use the platform.

Zuckerberg said Facebook had not as yet found any attempt at election meddling on Facebook in Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel is up for reelection on September 24.

But he said the company will continue to examine fake accounts it has removed there for any evidence of meddling.

He said the company will also hire 250 additional people to work on "election integrity" and expand the company's partnerships with election commissions around the world.

"We will work with others to create a new standard for transparency in online political ads," Zuckerberg said.

Facebook was under pressure from Congress as well as U.S. regulatory agencies to do more after it disclosed earlier this month that an internal review had found Russians spent at least $100,000 promoting socially divisive ads on issues such as immigration and gay rights during the election.

The U.S. Federal Election Commission, which years ago required the disclosure of those who purchase political ads on television in the United States, last week sought public comment on whether similar rules should be applied to Facebook and other social media.

Facebook's new commitment to trying to prevent political manipulation of its network was applauded by members of Congress on September 21.

Americans "deserve to know the truth about Russia's interference in the 2016 election," said Senator Mark Warner, who had been drafting legislation to require Facebook to take the steps announced by Zuckerberg, and more.

Reuters said Warner's legislation would require digital platforms with 1 million or more users to maintain a publicly available file of all election-related ads bought by people who spend more than $10,000.

The nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center said on September 21 that Facebook should have gone further and made the Russian ads available to everyone, "so that everyone can see the nature and extent of the use of Facebook accounts by Russia."

With reporting by AP and Reuters
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