Facebook. (Bloomberg photo by Andrew Harrer)

Facebook launches political-ad tool, but still allows some controversial content

Starting June 30, political ads that appear on Facebook are to show who paid for them

Anyone who wants to buy political ads on Facebook in the lead-up to the federal election will have to be approved by the company, but unpaid content that simply blurs lines —like a recent doctored video of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — will still be permitted on the social-media site.

Facebook is launching its authorization process for political advertising, which includes a number of steps to confirm that an entity or group buying an ad that deals with politics, elections or social issues is real and is based in Canada. During the identity-authorization process, advertisers will also be able to identify as Indigenous — a unique Canadian feature.

Kevin Chan, the head of public policy for Facebook Canada, says the company is trying to go beyond the standards set in the Liberal government’s new election advertising laws, which came into effect last year.

“We’re going to hold these ads for seven years, these will apply across the system irrespective of if they are federal, provincial or municipal ads,” he said in an interview in Ottawa.

“We’re going to provide basic information about these ads and we’re going to proactively enforce against people who may try to not self-declare that they’re running a political ad or will try to evade our system in some way.”

Starting June 30, political ads that appear on Facebook are to show who paid for them and give options for users to click and view a range of information about each ad’s reach — who saw it, their gender and location, as well as information about the advertiser.

The move is part of the social-media giant’s response to changes the Liberal government has made to Canada’s election laws aimed at stopping bad actors, foreign or domestic, from interfering with Canada’s upcoming federal election through advertising.

After the U.S. presidential election in 2016, a congressional investigation found thousands of ads ostensibly from American groups — promoting gun rights, denouncing candidate Hillary Clinton, advocating for the Black Panthers, touting Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders as a gay icon, attacking Islam — actually originated in Russia.

Bill C-76, which received royal assent in December, bans the use of money from foreign entities to conduct partisan campaigns. Facebook’s authorization system is meant to make sure the company knows in some detail who is buying ads on its platform.

Sarah Schiff, product manager at Facebook, says the company has prioritized building technology that will provide users with transparency about who is paying for political ads, where they come from and what audiences are being targeted.

But when it comes to content like the Pelosi video — which was slowed down to make her appear intoxicated or addled, and which spread widely after President Donald Trump tweeted a link to it — Chan says Facebook does not want to be an adjudicator of free speech.

The company refused to remove the video, despite calls for it to do so, as Facebook deemed that the doctored recording did not violate its ”community standards.” The video has since been removed, although Chan says Facebook didn’t take it down.

“We’re trying to protect the space of freedom of expression versus censorship,” he said.

“The best outcomes are the ones where people who are saying things or who are putting things on the platform, recognize that they also have shared accountability over these things.”

Chan stressed that when it comes to content that falls outside the new political-advertising rules, fake accounts will be removed, but content like the Pelosi video falls into a grey area where he says context is important.

For example, content shared to glorify terrorism would be removed, whereas the same content shared to educate the public about the horrors of terrorism would be allowed to remain, Chan said.

“There’s these principles of freedom of expression and having appropriate guardrails around it, which is why we find it very important to adhere to certain standards and certain principles.”

The new Canadian law for political ads requires online platforms, such as Facebook and Google, to create a registry of all digital advertisements placed by political parties or third parties during the pre-writ and writ periods and to ensure they remain visible to the public for two years.

ALSO READ: Facebook, Microsoft sign onto Canada’s declaration on electoral integrity

ALSO READ: Facebook takes down anti-vaxxer page that used image of late Canadian girl

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

BC Cancer Agency refuses to release audit’s critical findings, but discloses ‘positive’ findings

Information and Privacy Commissioner asked to review redactions of cancer agency’s triage audit

Barred Owl family spotted by Fishtrap Creek

Sighting a positive sign for tourism in Abbotsford

Mission-Mastqui-Fraser Canyon MP Jati Sidhu to run for federal re-election

The Liberal candidate has officially announced he will be on the ballot this October

Yale man arrested after fleeing police in downtown Hope

Man arrested on three outstanding warrants after being caught in stolen van

Fraser Valley Bandits split pair of games

Bandits post win over Hamilton on Thursday, fall to River Lions in Niagara on Saturday

VIDEO: Missing teens named as suspects in three northern B.C. killings

Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky are wanted in the deaths of Lucas Fowler, Chynna Deese, unknown man

B.C. teens wanted in double homicide, suspicious death spotted in Manitoba

Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky were thought to have been seen in the Gillam area

Countdown starts to 2020 BC Summer Games

Two flags unveiled at Maple Ridge city hall.

VIDEO: Man found dead near B.C. teens’ truck could be linked to a double homicide

RCMP said they are looking for Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, of Port Alberni

Weather Network’s anti-meat video ‘doesn’t reflect true story’: cattle ranchers

At issue is the video’s suggestion that cutting back on meat consumption could help save the planet

VIDEO: Young couple found dead in northern B.C. had been shot, police say

Chynna Noelle Deese of the U.S. and Lucas Robertson Fowler of Australia were found along Highway 97

Wrestling legend finds his wedding dance groove in B.C.

Professional wrestler Chris Jericho posted on social media that he was in Penticton recently

Vancouver Public Library banned from Pride parade after allowing controversial speaker

Vancouver Public Library allowed Meghan Murphy to book space for an event at the library in January

Man arrested after allegedly attacking people with syringe in Burnaby mall

Police say that no one has yet to come forward with injuries consistent with needle stab wounds

Most Read