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Facebook says it supports Honest Ads Act, cracks down on issue ads

Mark Zuckerberg wearing a suit
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies next week. Photo: Paul Marotta/Getty Images

Facebook said Friday it was supporting a bill that increases disclosure requirements for online political ads.

Why it matters: It’s the first time the company has endorsed a specific form of regulation of its platform, and it comes as founder Mark Zuckerberg prepares to face irate lawmakers on Capitol Hill next week. As recently as last week, company officials were dodging whether they supported the bill.

The details:

  • The bill, called The Honest Ads Act, was introduced in October by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Mark Warner (D-Va.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.).
  • Ad exec Rob Leathern wouldn’t say whether he would endorse the act just a week ago on a call with reporters.
  • But on Friday, Zuckerberg said in a post that election "interference is a problem that's bigger than any one platform, and that's why we support the Honest Ads Act. This will help raise the bar for all political advertising online."

The impact: Facebook's support of the bill is politically advantageous — its competitors haven't backed the bill — but the legislation doesn't yet have the momentum to pass.

Other updates:

  • Facebook says it plans to release its highly-anticipated public, searchable political ads archive in the U.S. in June. (The company is currently testing a feature in Canada that lets users see ads being run by a specific page.)
  • The company also says that moving forward, only authorized advertisers, who can confirm their identity and location, will be able to run "issue ads," or ads that advocate for a certain political cause. It also says people who manage Pages with large numbers of followers will need to be verified.

In a twist, the company said it would be applying some of these efforts to Instagram as well.

This story has been corrected to reflect that previous comments about the Honest Ads Act were made by Rob Leathern, not Rob Goldman, and the precise nature of the feature being tested in Canada.