Facebook’s rules for political ads and issue advertising will undergo substantial changes this week as part of the reforms the company implemented to tighten accountability after the 2016 election. That means advocacy professionals who conduct digital campaigns will have to get up to speed.
The changes were announced in April as Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO, spent two days testifying before Congress about the company’s policies on privacy and accountability. The new procedures, which have been in testing for weeks, are designed to increase both.
At their core, the new Facebook changes are designed to authenticate advertisers and prevent them from hiding their identity or misidentifying themselves, in much the same way that laws covering political ads in print, television and radio require transparency in those mediums.
“These steps by themselves won't stop all people trying to game the system,” Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page when the changes were announced. “But they will make it a lot harder for anyone to do what the Russians did during the 2016 election and use fake accounts and pages to run ads.”
Facebook’s New System
Beginning this week, political advertisers and organizations that buy issue ads will have to undergo additional steps in order to advertise. Among the changes that Facebook will implement:
- A two-step ad authentication process that includes verification of a physical mailing address. Facebook will mail an authentication code as part of the process.
- Disclosure of who is paying for the ads.
- Labeling, so that political ads are clear, along with the advertisers who sponsored them.
- Enforcement that includes both automated and human review. Facebook users will be able to tag an ad for review by a Facebook employee.
- Additional authentication for organizations that run large, well-trafficked Facebook pages.
Facebook is also implementing an archive of political and issue ads that will show all such ads that run on Facebook, including the number of impressions, how much was spent, the reach and information on the age, location and gender of users who were able to see the ad (this will reflect the ads delivered, not just the targeting information).
Getting Your Organization Ready
The new system is debuting in the United States first, where it will be refined and then launched in other parts of the world. Facebook’s system relies first on advertisers to self-select and label their ads as political, making the required disclosures. The company is also planning substantial enforcement (Facebook’s safety and security will reportedly include more than 20,000 people). To avoid problems, you will want to fully understand what Facebook requires.
If you have ads running, or if you plan to, take these steps:
- If you have an agency running your campaigns, have a discussion with your rep about how they are handling the changes. Make sure they understand what Facebook is requiring and what your needs are. There are disclosures involved, so make sure you understand what is being disclosed. Similarly, there is a physical address verification involved. Make sure you discuss which address is being used and who is handling the process.
- If your organization runs its own Facebook campaigns, make sure your social media director has gone to school on the new rules. Facebook has provided a help center with guidance as well as a Blueprint Class to ensure that advertisers are up to speed. Have your people mine these resources, adjust your campaigns and then give a presentation to your team about how things will change moving forward.
Whether you handle Facebook ads via an agency or in-house, make sure that you follow the rules and get it right. Mistakes may cause your campaigns to get shut down. Moreover, Facebook is a large company. Unless you are a big customer, getting personal help can be difficult once something goes wrong. The best course is to learn the new system well and implement the changes carefully.
While the new Facebook rules likely mean more work for advocacy professionals in the short term, they will increase credibility and transparency in the long run. That means you will be able to better trust what you are buying. It also means you’ll be able to keep tabs on your competition—and they, of course, will be able to keep tabs on you. As Wired Magazine wrote, “It's a significant step toward dissuading bad actors from polluting the platform, and a show of good faith from a company that badly needs to win back the public trust.”
If you need assistance placing Facebook ads to comply with the new rules, please contact us at SevenTwenty Strategies.