back to article New Facebook political ad rules: Now you must prove your ID before undermining democracy

Facebook has rolled out its promised disclosure regime for political and issue advertising, heralding a new age of transparency and civic responsibility. Or so Facebook folks suggest. "We believe that increased transparency will lead to increased accountability and responsibility over time – not just for Facebook but …

  1. Nate Amsden

    what is a political ad?

    I don't use facebook or instagram, but short of an ad going for or against a particular candidate(or perhaps a specific ballot measure) I wonder how they determine whether or not an ad is political. I suppose if they have politics related ad targeting that would be a sign as well, though that's independent of the ad content.

    1. TheVogon

      Re: what is a political ad?

      "The company doesn't expect every ad will be accurately labelled. "

      This. Token gesture, meet the world's largest game of whack-a-mole.

    2. Ken 16 Silver badge
      Flame

      There's a referendum today, the 36th amendment to the Irish constitution

      Any ad related to the topic of the referendum is political.

      The same Americans who get upset that Russians are funding political ads in their country are quite happy to fund ads in other peoples and even travel over campaigning.

  2. chuckufarley Silver badge
    WTF?

    I know it's crazy talk...

    ...but wouldn't it be better if they worked out a system that actually had some hope of restoring the trust of their user base and the governments of the world at large? In my opinion they will refuse to do anything meaningful as long they do not have a financial motivation to do so. They will just make lists of lists provided to them by actors that they are not going investigate in a substantial way as long as the money comes in. Action is needed in the form of regulation with agressive monetary penalties if things are really going to change.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Won't work, doesn't work now

    Won't work, doesn't work now. For a made-up example, "Paid for by Concerned Citizens of Alabama" because Concerned Citizens of Alabama is a registered political organization. Whether it's a front group for George Soros, the KKK, the American Nazi party, or Vladamir P., whoever sets it up, will not be revealed. So many political ads I've seen have the "paid for by..." by organizations whose actual goals, methods and funding are totally unrevealed. [Anonymous because I'm Another Disgruntled 'Merican Voter]

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: "Concerned Citizens of Alabama"

      Labelling helps in the sense that if you haven't heard of the group you can assume that it *is* just a front for some money that doesn't want you to know who they are. That, in the mind of any intelligent voter, is enough to make the content ignorable. This line of reasoning is even automatable: you whitelist the (few) organisations that you do recognise and simply ad-block the rest.

      But if you are minded to do any of that, you are probably already using my preferred algorithm for dealing with political ads, which is to whitelist none of them. Any group with anything useful to say has had the years running up to the election to say it. Voters really *ought* to ignore *all* political advertising in the run-up to an election.

  4. Jay Lenovo
    Devil

    Terms and conditions page 992

    The pursuit of transparency and responsibility as they continue their "unbiased" moderation of the Facebook community. Of which the users will be the final safety net for checking, and Facebook will act upon if warranted.

    Facebook is proud to monitor Facebook so please contact Facebook if you have complaints about how Facebook audits the functionality of Facebook.

    All secured. Ready to share

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Feed the beast

    In order to publish your political ad you must give even more detail about yourself to Facebook. They just keep finding more ways to gather even more data. I say we shut the entire thing down and give the money back to the shareholders.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: Feed the beast

      I say we shut the entire thing down,burn it with fire and give the money back to the shareholders. users who were duped into using this steaming pile.

      FTFY

  6. The Nazz Silver badge

    What a difference an ad makes (see, it's catching)

    Aren't the USAians doing extremely well at causing further divisions in their country/society without the additional, and minor, very minor, assistance from the Russians?

    I'm reminded of a conversation i had with a recent graduate from here in the UK, a black US guy who got extremely irate and angry every time the news carried a story about a black being killed by a white. Something should be done about it he'd scream.

    I politely asked him if he would have much more success and much better outcomes if he could channel his outrage and efforts into stopping the 93% of blacks killed by blacks.

    Where'd you get that figure from he demanded.

    Your Government (Obama era) i pointed out. Hmmm, an awkward silence ensued.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What a difference an ad makes (see, it's catching)

      Here's the thing: one cannot ask that question in the United States. If white, one would be permanently labeled a bigoted racist for making such a statement... even if it is the truth. And THAT , my friends across the pond, is where political correctness has us. Blacks refuse to police themselves as suggested by the statement: "if he could channel his outrage and efforts into stopping the 93% of blacks killed by blacks". Black on white crime , even though blacks are a small minority in reality, is HUGE compared to white on black crime. These are all FBI statistical FACTS, facts that spoken aloud in the U.S. will get the speaker labeled a racist. I submit that when you cannot restate a publicly available fact from your own government without being ostracized, you are living in a dystopian state.

  7. GrumpyKiwi

    Undermining democracy - har har har

    A couple of Facebook ads are not what is undermining democracy.

    Undermining democracy is things like political and business elites getting away with behaviours that would see commoners put away for long periods of time - whether that's molesting staff or endangering secret information.

    It's things like supra-national organisations ignoring democratic results because they're inconvenient to their oh-so-important projects. Demanding the elections/referenda get run again and again until the "right" result is generated.

    It's journalists writings on how terrible it is that democracy means that building (for example) high-speed train networks are just too hard because peoples opinions have to be taken into account instead of being overruled like they do in the paradise that is China.

    It's hordes of "you can't say that" twitter-twatters trying to prevent dissenting opinions from being discussed.

    Cheesy political ads are not the cause of this, they're a symptom.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Undermining democracy - har har har

      Philip Cross

  8. JohnFen Silver badge

    Transparency is not a solution

    ""We believe that increased transparency will lead to increased accountability and responsibility over time"

    I've been hearing this sentiment more and more from the spy-happy companies. It's a lie. Increased transparency is a good thing, yes, but it alone will not lead to increased accountability and responsibility. The only thing that will do that is some sort of stick that hits those companies right in the wallet.

    I think they are pushing this line of BS in the hopes of getting people to think that it's OK if they punch you in the face, as long as they tell you exactly which fist they'll use and how hard it will hit.

  9. JWLong

    Bullshit

    Idiots believe this shit.

  10. DCFusor Silver badge

    It's always the fault of another

    But what's funny here is our "left" trying to blame some thousands of bucks of Russian ads overwhelming their supposedly smarter and better qualified pantsuit who spent thousands of times more $. And was running against a clown anyway.

    Since I have a mind, I'd be embarrassed to make such a claim. Heck, I'm embarrassed to admit I'm left handed now.

    Those guys never take the blame for their own failings, it wouldn't be as progressive to take responsibility.

    Important to avoid that mirror, as it shows how ugly you are. And it's all the mirror's fault, too. /s

    Ah, the author is in SF, explains a lot....

    1. Alphebatical

      Re: It's always the fault of another

      The Trump campaign will have its place in history, but I can see the Clinton campaign as a part of the core curriculum for poli sci students for generations to come. She managed to screw up just about everything - including a few things most people wouldn't even think could be screwed up!

  11. Don MacVittie

    Still no mention

    Stil crickets about their "We'd ban anyone else, but we'll let you do this because we're on your side." Comment to a US political campaign. I'm far more concerned about that meddling than a few thousand bucks in poorly focused (and viewed) ads.

    But this whole circus has been to silence that discussion, so no surprises.

    1. DCFusor Silver badge

      Re: Still no mention

      Yep.

      Most of the news amounts to "hey, look, a squirrel" else there's danger we'd notice we get the same policy (barring one hobby horse per president) no matter who is officially elected. It's almost as if the president's job was to distract attention away from power (H/T Douglas Adams). This is not new, it's just that it's more and more poorly hidden. Sad that it works anyway; the conditioning of people to total ADHD is nearly complete it would seem.

      Shame on the media for this circus instead of focusing on why we the people never get any improvement, but the status quo power just gets more powerful - with media's help.

  12. tim292stro

    "...The horse is a speck on the horizon – but at least the barn door now has a bolt on it..."

    Maybe they should now focus on putting a roof and the other three walls on the barn - IMHO Facebook controls are more of a one-wall-set-piece than a full free-standing structure.

    "...We believe that increased transparency will lead to increased accountability and responsibility over time – not just for Facebook but advertisers as well..."

    <humor> Read as: We're hoping you don't notice in that statement that we've basically admitted that up until now we have had no clue who was using our systems and how - we're really scrambling to even get basic usage statistics beyond how many dollars we pulled in or how many accounts we have active on a day-to-day basis. </humor>

    "...If a person sees a political ad that doesn't have a label and needs one, we're asking them to report it..."

    <humor> Read as: In order to not get broken up (which we really, really don't want to have happen, because it might impact our employee profit sharing!!), we are doing our level best to ensure we don't have to understand what we are actually doing, and also that we are trying as hard as possible to find a way to have plausible deniability and no responsibility if we manage to cock it up. After all, if Congress or the EU comes back and says "Hey what about this political ad?" our architecture will allow us to say "Nobody flagged it as political, thanks for notifying us about it, we'll look into your concerns and promptly tell you that we were not responsible." Anyway, since we'll still be running the database where we keep track of people's reports of political ads, we can just go in there and tweak (or more likely, remove) the numbers if it looks like we are about to get in trouble. </humor>

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    democracy

    Do we or America actually have a democracy? is it not just whoever pays the most in funding that gets to decide what they do? is it not in the best interest of the politicians to not win so a coalition can pretty much do whatever it wants because it didn't win and the manifesto can be ripped up?

    Facebook is a nice distraction from the real issue which is that we do not have a democracy and no amount of dodgy adverts is going to make any difference anyway.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: democracy

      Don't know where you live so I have no idea of who "we" is, but the USA is most definitely not a democracy.

      You can find the Democracy Index mentioned in that article here. The United States isn't listed as a Full Democracy, it is under Flawed Democracy.

      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Re: democracy ..... the Great Joke which just keeps on Giving Absolute Powers to Sub-Prime Tools

        The future is ripe for a meritocracy, which I admit is more an autocracy and oligarchy on steroids than anything Uncle Sam would endeavour to understand and develop to replace their failed, never practiced democracy ..... although you cannot blame them for that whenever the attention span of the masses is so easily led in whatever direction is required for them to be subdued and remain ignorant of their vassal position and their will is simply perverted to what media presents as the choices available.]

        Winston Churchill called it right, many moons ago .... "The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with an average voter."

        However, these days there is an added new dimension to the lively equation with keys to the riddles, wrapped in a mysteries inside enigmas.... and it do not suffer the fool or wait for the granting of permissions to speak and share alternate reality views more valid that those parroted in established systems with a vested interest and catastrophic dependence upon the status quo being maintained and retained. .....

        “The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane and intolerable, and so, if he is romantic, he tries to change it. And even if he is not romantic personally he is very apt to spread discontent among those who are.” …… H.L. Mencken

      2. rdhood

        Re: democracy

        The United states is a Democratic Republic. It is NOT a democracy. It does not claim to be a democracy... except for some liberals who would like it to be so that California and New York could rule the country.

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