Facebook expands transparency for social issue ads in Australia

Today, Facebook has announced the expansion of initiatives focused on increasing transparency and controls around social issues, electoral, and political ads for Australian users.

While political ads play an important role in elections, Facebook users have said they want the option to see fewer of these on their Facebook and Instagram feeds.

Facebook expanding transparency around social issue ads in Australia

Earlier this year, the platform revealed a new control feature that allows people to have more control over the ads they see on Facebook.

This feature gives users a choice to see fewer social issues, electoral, and political ads with “Paid for by” disclaimers in Australia.

To enable the social issue, electoral, and political ads control feature, people can adjust their ad topic preferences:

  • Visit Ad Preferences then click ‘Ad Topics’.
  • Under the list of ‘Ad Topics’, you’ll see a list of topics including ‘Social Issues, Elections or Politics’.
  • Across from ‘Social Issues, Elections or Politics’, click ‘See Fewer’.

Users can also turn on this control by clicking on the top of these ads in their feed and we will stop showing them ads about social issues, elections or politics that include a disclaimer.

Facebook is also expanding the proactive enforcement of social issue ads to Australia. Since last August, advertisers in Australia that want to run electoral and political ads were required to go through the authorisation process using government-issued photo ID, and place “Paid for by” disclaimers on their ads.

Users can also turn on this control by clicking on the top of these ads in their feed and we will stop showing them ads about social issues, elections or politics that include a disclaimer

This includes any person creating, modifying, publishing or pausing ads that reference political figures, political parties or elections. Ads will also be entered into Facebook’s Ad Library for seven years.

From 29 June, these requirements will also apply to advertisers that choose to run social issue ads that seek to influence public opinion through discussion, debate or advocacy for or against important topics, such as civil and social rights, crime, environmental politics, education or immigration.

These additional transparency features on Facebook and Instagram and mandatory requirements for advertisers are designed to  promote safe and healthy debate on influential topics, so that users can better understand who’s trying to influence them with ads.

Facebook said that extending transparency to now cover social issue ads is part of its commitments as a founding member and signatory to the voluntary Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation and Misinformation. The Code — led by industry association for the digital industry in Australia, DIGI — is an industry effort to help reduce misinformation online, and has been prepared at the request of the Australian Government.

Other Australian specific commitments the platform have committed to include:

  • Offering additional support to the Australian Government to direct people to authoritative information about the vaccine rollout, including a substantial provision of ad credits and the offer to build a vaccine finder service in Australia.
  • Expanding our third-party fact-checking partner capability within Australia in 2021.
  • Funding Australia-specific research and program partnerships by independent experts and academics on media literacy, misinformation and disinformation in 2021.

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