There has been a great deal of controversy concerning the political ads that appeared on Facebook in 2015 and 2016 during the lead-up to the presidential election in the United States. It was recently revealed that hundreds of political ads on Facebook were actually placed by people in Russia as propaganda designed to sway the results of the American election. Facebook made no effort whatsoever to reveal that Russians were behind the ads. They made a statement that the identities of the people who place ads need to be protected. However, all of that is going to change from now on.
The U.S. Federal Election Commission is going to force the world’s largest social network to be more transparent. In the future, all political ads that are placed online will need to show the name of the person or organization who paid for them. This will allow the public to know exactly who is trying to sway their political opinion. Political ads in print, radio and TV have been subjected to this rule for decades. It seems only fair that online political ads should be subjected to the same transparency.
This change in the regulations surrounding online political ads would seem to officially put an end to Russia and other countries being able to post anonymous propaganda on American social media. There has been an overwhelmingly positive response from the public regarding Facebook having to reveal this info. Many people in the media have written scathing articles and social media posts criticizing Facebook for protecting Russia instead of revealing they were behind the ads right away. Facebook seems more interested in taking money from advertisers than promoting transparency that will help to preserve the integrity of American elections.
The revelation that Russians had placed the propaganda ads on Facebook has been a focal point in the national discussion about foreign countries meddling in American elections. The media believes that this decision should have been made long ago. Tech giants like Facebook have been given a great deal of leeway. However, there are many people who believe that Facebook is popular enough to sway an election if the right propaganda is used. This is why revealing who is paying for political ads is so important. It seems very unlikely that Russia will attempt to buy Facebook ads for future elections if their identity is going to be revealed. That would defeat their purpose.