Oct 7, 2017

Facebook tells advertisers more scrutiny is coming

Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: Esteban Felix / AP

Facebook is going to require ads that are targeted to people based on "politics, religion, ethnicity or social issues" to be manually reviewed before they go live, according to an email sent to advertisers and obtained by Axios. That's a higher standard than that required of most Facebook ads, which are bought and uploaded to the site through an automated system. It's also warning that it expects the new policy to slow down the launch of new ad campaigns.

Why it matters: The steps Facebook is taking to combat questions of Russian election interference strike at the core of the company's business. The ad buyers who spent $450 million on Facebook ads love the platform's speed and efficiency — something they fear will be diminished by inserting more human oversight of political ads before they go live. The company's action comes as a political ad disclosure bill gains momentum on Capitol Hill.

From the email: "With this update, we'll be requiring more ads to go through human review. New campaigns with ad sets contain targeting options that we feel warrant additional review (such as those associated with topics such as politics, religion, ethnicity and social issues), we will route them for manual review prior to being approved. In these instances, advertisers are likely to experience a delay prior to the start of ad delivery, although we will look for ways to reduce any potential delays over time."

In Washington: Democratic Sens. Mark Warner and Amy Klobuchar are working on a bill that will increase the disclosure requirements for digital political ads. It's expected to drop after the senators return from recess. "We'll probably introduce it right when we get back," Klobuchar said this week. "There aren't sticking points. We're just trying to get authors on the bill." A Facebook spokesperson tells Axios that it's "open to reviewing any reasonable Congressional proposals."

Details are required by law to be publicly disclosed about political ads running on TV stations, including cable and satellite networks. But that requirement does not extend to digital platforms.

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