Facebook to tighten political ad rules ahead of EU elections

Nick Clegg announces new safeguards around paid political adverts to prevent foreign interference in elections

(Image credit: Loic Venance/AFP/Getty Images)

Facebook has said it will strengthen safeguards around paid-for political adverts to prevent foreign interference in elections.

The world's largest social network has faced pressure from regulators and the public after last year's Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which it was revealed the company had improperly acquired data on millions of US users to target election advertising.

“Fears about misinformation and interference have intensified with elections due this year for the European Parliament and several EU countries including Belgium and Finland,” reports Reuters.

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In response Facebook has announced new transparency tools for electoral ads that are set to be in launched before India’s elections in February then in Ukraine and Israel, before being rolled out globally before the end of June.

All political ads will now be stored in a publicly searchable library for up to seven years. This will contain information on the amount of money spent, who paid for them and the demographics of those who saw them, including age, gender and location.

Voice of America says the new tools “will also cover 'issue ads' which do not explicitly back one candidate or political party but which focus on highly politicised topics like immigration”.

In his first speech as Facebook’s new head of global affairs, Nick Clegg said the new tools would be launched in late March to help protect the integrity of EU elections in May.

The former deputy prime minister, who divided opinion by taking up his role at the social media giant, promised the company would also tackle political misinformation in the run-up to the EU elections with a new “war room” based in Dublin.

However, in a sign he is quickly adapting to his role as the public face of Facebook, “later in the hour-long speech, Clegg went on the offensive,” says The Guardian.

Arguing “we must avoid legitimate questions about data-driven businesses evolving into an outright rejection of data sharing and innovation”, he was “echoing [Facebook CEO Mark] Zuckerberg’s regular warning that attempts to clamp down on data harvesting by American businesses risk handing the future of innovation to China”, says the paper.

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