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Facebook begins verifying political ads in India ahead of 2019 polls

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New Delhi, 07 December : Facing intense scrutiny over the misuse of its platform globally during elections, Facebook has announced fresh steps to increase ad transparency and defend against foreign interference ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in India.

Now anyone who wants to run an ad in India related to politics will need to first confirm their identity and location, and give more details about who placed the ad, the social networking giant said in a statement late Thursday.

“We’re making big changes to the way we manage these ads on Facebook and Instagram. We’ve rolled out these changes in the US, Brazil and the UK, and next, we’re taking our first steps towards bringing transparency to ads related to politics in India,” said Sarah Clark Schiff, Product Manager at Facebook.

“This is key as we work hard to prevent abuse on Facebook ahead of India’s general elections next year.”

Facebook said the identity and location confirmation will take a few weeks. So those planning to run political ads next year should better start the verification process now by using their mobile phones or computer to submit proof of identity and location.

“This will help avoid delays when they run political ads next year,” informed Schiff.

Advertisers in India can download the latest Facebook app and visit Settings to get started.

Early 2019, Facebook would also start to show a disclaimer on all political ads that provides more information about who’s placing the ad, and an online searchable Ad Library for anyone to access.

“This is a library of all ads related to politics from a particular advertiser as well as information like the budget associated with an individual ad, a range of impressions, as well as the demographics of who saw the ad,” said Facebook.

At that time, the company would also begin to enforce the policy that requires all ads related to politics be run by an advertiser who’s completed the authorisations process and be labelled with the disclaimer.

“We will not require eligible news publishers to get authorised, and we won’t include their ads in the Ad Library,” Facebook added.

Visiting India couple of months ago, Richard Allan, Facebook’s Vice President for Global Policy Solutions, said that the social networking giant was in the process of establishing a task force comprising “hundreds of people” in the country to prevent bad actors from abusing its platform.

“With the 2019 elections coming, we are pulling together a group of specialists to work together with political parties,” he said.

Facebook has been under intense scrutiny ever since allegations of Russia-linked accounts using the social networking platform to spread divisive messages during the 2016 presidential election surfaced.

Echoing Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s earlier comments on elections across the world, Allan said the social media platform “wants to help countries around the world, including India, to conduct free and fair elections”.

In April, Zuckerberg said Facebook will ensure that its platform is not misused to influence elections in India and elsewhere.

“Our goals are to understand Facebook’s impact on upcoming elections — like Brazil, India, Mexico and the US midterms — and to inform our future product and policy decisions,” he told the US lawmakers during a hearing.

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