As hundreds of millions of Indians prepare to vote in a new government this year, Facebook is making sure its users in the country know political ads when they see them.
Those ads will carry labels identifying who published or paid for them, along with more details about the pages running the ads. Indian political advertisers have been required to verify their identity and location with Facebook since December.
Facebook users can also look up political ads in a searchable library, which will show how many impressions an ad made, which demographic groups it reached and how much was spent on it.
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Facebook has come under intense scrutiny from Congress, US federal investigators, and the media, after it emerged that Russian government-linked operatives manipulated its platform to target Americans during the 2016 US presidential election. The company has taken several measures since then to ensure it is not exploited, including hiring thousands of moderators and investing in artificial intelligence.
It has also extended its efforts to national polls around the world, announcing it would not accept political ads from outside Nigeria ahead of the country’s presidential vote later this month.
India’s election, the world’s biggest, will see social media play a huge role, and Facebook’s latest efforts are an attempt at heading off abuse of its platform.
The new advertising measures, which also apply to Instagram, have already been deployed in countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom and Brazil.
“We’re committed to creating a new standard of transparency and authenticity for political advertising,” Facebook product manager Sarah Schiff and Shivnath Thukral, the company’s public policy director in India, said in a statement. “Ahead of India’s general elections, we’re making big changes.”
Facebook’s most popular product in India is its mobile messaging service WhatsApp. India is WhatsApp’s biggest market, with more than 200 million users out of 1.5 billion globally, but the platform has come under fire after viral hoax messages caused several lynchings last year.
WhatsApp is stepping up its use of artificial intelligence to detect and block accounts that send mass messages ahead of the election, and has warned political parties it will ban any accounts that spread politically-motivated spam, it said earlier this week.