Facebook to test ad transparency features in Canada as scrutiny mounts

A 3D plastic representation of the Facebook logo is seen in this photo illustration.
A 3D plastic representation of the Facebook logo is seen in this photo illustration. Reuters/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

In an effort to improve the transparency of advertisements that appear on its platform, Facebook will use Canada as a testing ground for several new features.

The social media mammoth said in a blog post Friday that Canadian users will be able to select a “View Ads” option to see which ads are being run on a specific Facebook page. This feature will also be rolling out on Instagram and Messenger.

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“When it comes to advertising on Facebook, people should be able to tell who the advertiser is and see the ads they’re running, especially for political ads,” wrote Ron Goldman, vice-president of ads at Facebook, in the statement.

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Earlier in October, Facebook Canada announced the launch of a “Canadian Election Integrity Initiative” going into the 2019 federal election in response to a report published by the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) in June that predicted Canada’s upcoming vote was a likely target for hackers.

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As part of the initiative, Facebook said it was launching a crisis line for Canadian politicians to use if their email accounts come under cyberattack. As well, the social media giant says it will partner with MediaSmarts to roll out a digital news literacy campaign.

“Starting in Canada was a natural choice as this effort aligns with our election integrity work already underway there,” wrote Goldman.

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During the test, only active ads will be shown, though the statement says that when the features are expanded to the U.S., the plan is to begin building an archive of “federal election-related ads so that we can show both current and historical federal election-related ads.”

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Furthermore, for advertisers who want to run election-related ads, Facebook will soon require more thorough documentation. As part of this process, advertisers could be asked to identify whether they’re running an election-related ad and verify both their identity and their location.

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The verification may also need to disclose who paid for the ad, the total amount spent, the number of impressions and demographics of the audience reached.

Facebook has come under fire for its role in the November 2016 U.S. presidential election, and the dissemination of so-called “fake news” on its platform. It disclosed last month that it found ads linked to fake accounts, likely run from Russia, that sought to influence the election.

— With a file from The Canadian Press 

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