How Facebook smartly tweaked political ad transparency tool for India

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By Gokul Bhagabati

New Delhi– In the run-up to the general election in India, Facebook has smartly tweaked a new tool aimed at bringing transparency to ads related to politics in the country.

Unlike in other countries where the feature is available, political advertisers in India will be able to skip the “Paid for by” disclaimer by choosing a “Published by” label – leaving people guessing who actually paid for the ad.

The social media giant earlier introduced the political ad transparency tool in the US, Brazil, and the UK, and in December last year, it announced that the tool would be brought to India ahead of the forthcoming general election in the country.

It finally brought the tool to India on Thursday.

As part of these changes which will be enforced by Facebook from February 21, anyone who wants to run ads related to politics in India will have to reveal their identity and location to pass the authorisation process and have a “Published by” or “Paid for by” label.

“The tool comes with some India-specific features,” Shivnath Thukral, Facebook’s Public Policy Director for India and South Asia told IANS in an interview.

“The law of the land does not require us to make the ‘Paid for by’ label mandatory in India,” Thukral added.

When asked if that could help some advertisers to fudge data, Thukral said the social media platform has taken key steps towards transparency and that it would be open to feedback and suggestion and learn from them.

“Many new things will happen over the next months and years,” he added.

Facebook requires those who opt for the “Published by” label to go through another level of authentication to ensure the entity/organisation cited is authentic.

Whatever of these two options one chooses, users will still be able to see how much money was spent on the ad, which age group the ad targets and how long it will run among other details.

Facebook verifies residency of advertisers either by physical verification (by sending someone to the address provided) or by sending a code in the post. Facebook, Thukral added, has partnered with external agencies for physical verification of the location of the advertisers.

To be approved by Facebook, one needs to have a residency in India, he said, adding that the verification process takes around four to five days.

Since the authorisation process was announced in December, thousands have applied so far, Thukral said.

Another India-first feature that Facebook introduced was that advertisers can begin the authorisations on their mobile phones itself instead of logging in from a desktop.

Moreover, Facebook also introduced for registered political parties in India an option to upload their Media Certification and Monitoring Committee Certificate from India’s Election Commission.

“In our conversation with Election Commission, we learnt that it is essential to give political parties the option to upload the certificate,” Thukral told IANS.

When a person clicks on the disclaimer, they will be taken to a searchable Ad Library where they can see important information related to the ad, including range of impressions, range of spend, and information about who saw the ad, like age, gender and location across India.

The disclaimer credentials will also appear in the Ad Library, Facebook said. (IANS)



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