Facebook Making Changes Following Ad Buys by Russia

Facebook, Inc. CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Thursday that the social media giant was making broad changes to its policies for political ads, including increased scrutiny by humans, in an attempt to give the site’s 2 billion user base additional transparency into who pays for what political ad.

The announcement by Zuckerberg was made through one of Facebook’s Live videos and comes at the same time of the decision made by the company to release 3,000 ads that are linked to Russians, to congressional committees that are investigating Russia’s meddling during the presidential campaign last year.

Facebook disclosed September 6 that Russian agents purchased ads on the social media site during the U.S. presidential campaign but previously has given only samples to congressional staffers and not handed the entire ad over to them.

Zuckerberg said that he did not want anyone using their tools as a way of undermining democracy. That, he said, is not what Facebook stands for, and the integrity of our presidential elections is fundamental to democracy worldwide.

Shares of Facebook were down during afterhours trading on Thursday. The shares of the company are up in 2017 by 48.6%, which is close to five times that of the S&P 500 index, which has gained 11.6% during 2017.

The biggest change announced on Thursday was the move by the company to provide additional transparency for users, said Zuckerberg.

Moving forward, Facebook advertisers purchasing political ads will need to disclose what page paid for the advertising, and users can visit a page and see all ads that were running to any audience across the platform.

Zuckerberg added in the video that the changes made to the company’s ad system would be rolling out over the upcoming month.

At this time, advertisers purchasing time on TV must make disclosures but online that is not a requirement.

On Wednesday, COO Sheryl Sandberg said Facebook was planning to bolster the reviews by humans of its system for ads.

On Thursday, several specifics were offered. Zuckerberg said the head count would double for its election integrity group, and add over 250 people across all its teams focused on safety and security of the community.

By adding more staff, Zuckerberg said Facebook would bolster the review process for its political ads, although no specifics were provided by him.

Germany is holding elections this weekend and Zuckerberg sought to give reassurance to Facebook users that the company has taken steps to lower interference.

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