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Facebook’s Sandberg: Fact-checking delays are frustrating advertisers

Daniel Howley
Technology Editor

Facebook’s (FB) recent efforts to prevent fake news and election interference are creating friction with advertisers, its COO, Sheryl Sandberg, acknowledged Thursday.

“No one likes the delays — advertisers don’t like them,” Sandberg said via a video call from the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California. ”Things are going to be slower. Anything we check will be slower. We have to get copies of real identities from people. We’re going to work as hard as we can to speed things up.”

‘More manual checks means more delays’

In its push to increase transparency in political ads, especially in the lead-up to the 2018 midterm elections, Facebook is working to ensure the same problems with fake news and fraudulent accounts don’t rear their ugly heads as they did in the 2016 election.

Part of that effort means finding and disabling fraudulent accounts and fact-checking  articles, Sandberg explained on Thursday. Those efforts are proving to be time-intensive — which can frustrate advertisers.

“More manual reviews and more manual checks means more delays,” she said. Facebook has received complaints from politicians who are trying to jump on hot-button issues and want to get their ads up quickly, as well as news organizations  trying to promote articles related to major campaign issues, according to Sandberg.

On Thursday, Sandberg noted that the social network is focused on preventing interference in the upcoming midterm elections. “The most important thing is going after fake accounts,” she said.

But dealing with phony accounts is only half the problem. The social network is also working to counter any fake news articles that pop up on the site. To do that, Sandberg said Facebook is contracting with third-party fact checkers in all 50 states.

“I don’t believe the delays will have a meaningful impact on revenue”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg famously downplayed the impact of fake news and fraudulent accounts following the 2016 election. Since then, however, and following revelations that Facebook user data was used by Cambridge Analytica in an attempt to influence the election in Donald Trump’s favor, Zuckerberg has been pushing to make it clear that the social network takes such matters seriously.

Part of that has included taking down millions of fake accounts and monitoring trends during important national and international elections, such as the special election in Alabama and the French presidential election.

Following the Alabama election, Zuckerberg told The New York Times that Facebook found and disabled a “significant number” of foreign fake news accounts attempting to hijack the narrative surrounding the election.

Beyond fake news and accounts, Facebook and Instagram have implemented a system that lets you see who or what organizations have paid for political and issue ads on the networks. Issue ads include those dealing with topics ranging from gun control to reproductive rights.

To identify those ads, Facebook is using a combination of artificial intelligence and humans to vet advertisers. In order for an ad to run, an advertiser must provide his or her personal identification, whether that be a driver’s license or passport; their mailing address and last four digits of their social security number.

But the process has slowed down how quickly an advertiser can get an ad online. And as Sandberg pointed out during the press event, advertisers aren’t happy about it. Sandberg said she doesn’t believe the slow-down in ads hitting the site will have an impact on the company’s bottom line.

“I don’t believe the delays will have a meaningful impact on revenue,” she said.

It’s also worth noting that Facebook’s stock price is still riding high, even after taking a beating following the Cambridge Analytica scandal. It was as high as $195.77 a share as of Wednesday.

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Email Daniel Howley at dhowley@oath.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowleyFollow Yahoo Finance on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and LinkedIn