The Nitty-Gritty of Political Advertising on Facebook

The outside of the Customer Success office at Phone2Action reads,“We don’t just aim for exceptional customer service. We aim for legendary.” In order to provide legendary customer service, the Customer Success team must understand the updates that our partners add to their advocacy campaigns. As a Customer Success fellow, I have spent the summer working with the platforms that are integrated with Phone2Action. For example, I researched political advertising on Facebook and the new policies around it to promote awareness amongst our clients who rely on this function.  

On May 24th, 2018, Facebook announced that they were updating their policies pertaining to political advertisements in order to increase transparency. This decision was in response to the decreasing public trust in the platform. During the 2016 presidential election, Russia posted advertisements intended to manipulate voters while keeping a veil of legitimacy by using “patriotic” page names. Additionally, “fake news” posted on Facebook has reduced user confidence.

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Defining Political Ads

Facebook has redefined what they consider “advertisements with political content.” There are three types of advertisements that Facebook considers to have political content. First, any advertisement that is made by, on behalf of, or about a current or former candidate for public office, a political party, a political action committee, or advocates for the outcome of an election to public office. Second, any advertisement that relates to any election, referendum, or ballot initiative, including “get out the vote” or election information campaigns. Third, any advertisement that relates to any national legislative issue of public importance in any place where the ad is being run or is regulated as political advertising.  

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Facebook’s Verification Process

If any user intends to post political advertisements, they must complete a new verification process. Creators can access this process by hovering over the “Settings” button on their organization’s page in the top right corner. Once directed to the new page, the user will then click on “Authorizations” on the menu on the left hand side. The user will be asked to provide personal information regarding their identity. Firstly, the user will be prompted to provide a residential address. A business address will not be accepted. Secondly, an image of a government issued photo ID is required. The website will require the user to submit a picture of the front and back of the ID. Thirdly, it is mandatory for the user to submit the final four digits of their social security number. Once these three steps are complete, the verification process will require the user to input a personalized code. Facebook will send a letter through “snail mail” to the residential address containing the code. This should arrive within 3-7 business days. Once the user receives the code, they will have 30 days to submit the code on Facebook.

Page Admin Role in Posting Political Ads

Once verified, Facebook will notify the “page admin” that they are able to post advertisements will political content. Even though multiple people are able to edit the same Facebook page, only the page admin’s account will have the ability to post political advertisements. The user will be required to self-identify the ad as “political.” All advertisements will be reviewed by Facebook before becoming available to the public. If Facebook deems an advertisement to contain political content and it is not self-identified as so, it will not be allowed to be posted on the platform.

Appearance of Political Ads on Facebook  

The advertisement will also look different once it is verified and posted. A “paid for” label will appear, stating which organization provided the funding for the advertisement. Additionally, Facebook has created a public archive of all political advertisements from the past seven years. Anyone can access this by going to facebook.com/politicalcontentads. In this archive, people will can see whether the advertisement is active or inactive, the duration of its activity, a range of impressions it received, a range of the cost, the demographic audience, and the location where it was active.  

Although these policies do make it more inconvenient to post advertisements, it should increase the validity of the platform. These rules certainly mark the beginning of a new age of political advertising.

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About the Author:

Evan Rosenbaum is from Purchase, New York. He is an upcoming sophomore in the School of Business at The George Washington University pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Finance degree with a double major in Political Science. Evan has been a nationally competitive debater for the past five years. In high school, Evan competed on the national Public Forum debate circuit, ranking as high as sixth in the nation his senior year.  Currently, Evan is an active member of the George Washington Parliamentary Debate Society where he competes in the American Parliamentary Debate Association every weekend. Debate has allowed him to research and developed arguments on a wide range of government functions. This is what sparked his interest in advocacy and public policy. Additionally, he interned at the Westchester Board of Legislators where he learned the basics of how local governments operate. His hobbies include being a loyal fan of the Jets, Mets, and Knicks, cooking, and weightlifting.       

Learn more about our Civic Tech Fellowship Program from Phone2Action’s cofounder, Ximena Hartstock.   

 

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