Facebook is trying to boost transparency requirements for political ads aimed at influencing voters. It’s an attempt to respond to Russian meddling in the 2016 election via “fake news” placed on the platform.
But newsrooms are feeling the hit by having their stories identified as “political content.”
Inside the new ad policy
One of those measures is requiring any poster of content that pays for more exposure that is deemed to have “political content” (based on Facebook’s own definition) to first become “authorized”.
The authorization process — part of the advertising policies that took effect May 7 — involves several steps:
Advertisers must show proof of U.S. residency and confirm a mailing address;
Advertisers must identify a page administrator;
They must set up a 2-factor identification on their Facebook account;
And they must confirm their identity by providing a U.S. driver’s license or passport, U.S. residential mailing address and the last 4 digits of their Social Security number.
Under the new policy, Facebook will then send a letter by mail to the advertiser with a special code and URL to finish the ID confirmation. Once that process is completed, the page can begin running ads with so-called political content, but the posts will include a political ad header and disclaimer viewable by anyone who comes across it on their newsfeed.
The public will also be able to search ads with political content that have appeared on Facebook or Instagram since May 7, and see information about who paid for them, how much they paid and what groups were targeted.
So what’s wrong?
The problem is that political coverage from news outlets has been lumped into the same category as content from political action committees or other advocacy/agenda-driven organizations.
What this means for news outlets like us: While we’re able to post our stories on Facebook for free, boosting (or sponsoring) our content helps us to reach new audiences and can also help assure that our our posts show up on our existing readers’ newsfeeds.
It’s helpful to do that because Facebook’s algorithm, and the platform’s constant changes, can make it difficult for our stories to reach potential readers. But under the new registration policy, if the Center for Public Integrity wants to boost its posts, our nonpartisan investigative stories could easily be misidentified as propaganda, which could seriously harm our credibility earned during 29 years of producing Pulitzer Prize-winning journalism..