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Facebook Moves To Better Vet Ad Buyers Ahead Of 2020 Election

Dave Royse

Facebook, Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) is moving to more tightly control political ads on its site as it faces a 2020 election cycle under heavy scrutiny, hoping to avoid the blame some put on the social media company for enabling interference in the 2016 presidential contest.

Facebook said most organizations that buy political ads on the platform, and on Instagram, will have to be able to more solidly prove their identity. It's an effort to increase transparency around who is putting the ads up.

Facebook was blamed by some for allowing posts that may have influenced the 2016 election, though they came from shadowy sources with unclear intent, including some in Russia.

“People should know who is trying to influence their vote and advertisers shouldn’t be able to cover up who is paying for ads,” Katie Harbath, Facebook’s public policy director for global elections, and product manager Sarah Schiff said in a company blog post.

Last year, Facebook started requiring political advertisers to disclose their identities and say where they are, but some have sidestepped the requirement, Harbath and Schiff said. Starting in mid-September, the process will be more stringent.

Tighter Approval Process

“Advertisers will need to provide more information about their organization before we review and approve their disclaimer,” they said in the post.

“If they do not provide this information by mid-October, we will pause their ads. While the authorization process won’t be perfect, it will help us confirm the legitimacy of an organization and provide people with more details about who’s behind the ads they are seeing.”

Ad buyers will have to provide more information, including government-issued identifying items such as a Federal Election Commission ID number or a tax ID number.

Ad Rates Bid Up

The cost of trying to reach voters on Facebook went up significantly this week, according to a Thursday Wall Street Journal report.

A spike in the number of candidates trying to buy ads to boost donors this past week in time to appear in Democratic presidential debates in the coming months sent the price of ads higher for all candidates trying to reach Democratic-leaning voters, the Journal reported.

Facebook’s ad systems are generally based on auction pricing, meaning higher demand spikes prices.
The Journal said one political action committee said its campaigns have generally spent under $10 per ad to generate one email address, but that one Facebook push recently cost the PAC nearly $300 per email.

Facebook shares were up slightly at $185.67 at the close Friday. 

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