Facebook to ban foreign political ads for the Australian election

By Mariam Cheik-Hussein | 5 April 2019

Facebook is banning foreign political ads and introducing third-party fact-checking in time for the upcoming federal election.

The social media giant has introduced the new measures to deal with issues around “fake news” and micro-targeting concerns, which kicked-off following the claims of Russian-hacking during the 2016 US elections.

The new restrictions come into effect the day after the election is called and will prohibit electoral ads purchased from outside of Australia. Prime Minister Scott Morrison is expected to announce the election date this weekend.

“Combating foreign interference is a key pillar of our approach to safeguarding elections on our platform,” Facebook director of policy for Australia Mia Garlick says.

“The restriction will apply to ads we determine to be coming from foreign entities that are of an electoral nature, meaning they contain references to politicians, parties or election suppression. We also won't allow foreign ads that include political slogans and party logos.”

In partnership with international news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP), it’s also working with third-party fact-checkers to review content and rate their accuracy. The fact-checkers are certified through a non-partisan International Fact-Checking Network. 

Currently, Facebook only removes content that violates its Community Standards. When content is flagged as showing false information, Facebook reduces its distribution by placing it lower in the News Feed, claiming to be able to reduce its future views by more than 80% on average. 

The tech giant is also working on increasing transparency for all ads, reducing fake accounts and increasing its safety and security efforts.

Facebook has more than 30,000 people working on safety and security, three times as many as it had in 2017, and says it’s improved its machine learning capabilities around political content and inauthentic behaviour.

“At Facebook, we're focused on protecting elections and making sure people have a voice in the political process,” Garlick says.

“Over the last few years, we’ve learned from elections around the world to create a robust approach to safeguarding elections on Facebook.”

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