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PoliticsJune 16, 2020

Facebook to ban foreign political ads in run-up to New Zealand election

Facebook social media
Facebook social media

Facebook has unveiled tougher rules to control political content posted on its main platform and Instagram in the months before the September election, reports Justin Giovannetti.

As of next month only New Zealanders who have provided Facebook with a form of government-issued identification will be able to post ads that make references to political figures, parties, social issues or the country’s election.

The social media giant says that as part of a bid to combat the spread of misinformation it has contracted professional fact-checkers to review more stories in the months before the September 19 vote.

The new rules will be mandatory. The National Party has expressed reluctance to sign up to Facebook’s voluntary political advertising library in the past.

Facebook has been under intense scrutiny since the 2016 election in the US saw a flurry of Russian-backed posts and the company faced fines in the UK and around the world following the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

“As Kiwis prepare to head to the polls, we’re launching new requirements for political ads in New Zealand and sharing an update on the ongoing work we do to combat harm and limit the spread of misinformation,” Mia Garlick, Facebook’s local director, said in a statement.

With the changes many political or socially-focused ads on Facebook will resemble more traditional forms of outreach from political parties. All ads covered by the policy will be required to show a disclaimer as well as publicly list a local phone number, email and website where the person or group responsible can be reached.

Parties and advertisers looking to post in the coming months are being warned by Facebook to consider going through the vetting process soon as it could take a few days for them to be accepted.

The ads will be kept in an online library for seven years. Researchers will be able to see the ad’s intended audience, the number of impressions and some aggregated information on who saw the ad.

This will also be applied to any ads related to the referendum questions on cannabis and medically-assisted dying.

“Shining a brighter light on political advertising and pages makes both Facebook and advertisers more accountable, which is good for people and good for democracy,” said Garlick.

The Australian Associated Press, which maintains a small staff in New Zealand, has been contracted by Facebook to provide fact-checking of stories. Despite possible layoffs at the news agency expected in the coming months, the social media giant said it is paying for the service and expects NZ-based journalists will continue to conduct fact-checks.

Politicians registered with the electoral commission will be exempted from the fact-checking, to avoid the appearance that Facebook is censoring political debates, according to Garlick. However, the company will block any speech from politicians that engages in voter suppression, interference with the election or violates other policies.

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