Last year Facebook announced a new authorization process for advertisers promoting social issues, political content, or elections. The new regulations were meant to increase transparency and authenticity for the public by better clarifying who is paying for ads that may be trying to influence votes. Now advertisers need to be authorized by Facebook in order to promote content around social issues, politics, or elections, and once they are authorized, a “paid for by” disclaimer is placed on every ad.
To prepare for the 2020 election, Facebook is rolling out three major updates to its authorization process for ads related to social issues, politics, and elections. The updates include increasing ad transparency, adding in additional authorization steps, and redefining social issues categories. By strengthening the authorization process, Facebook is making it more difficult for advertisers to obscure who is behind ads – and by broadening topics that are considered social issues, Facebook is retaining more control over which content requires authorization. The new updates apply to both Facebook and Instagram.
What is Changing for Advertisers
More Advertiser Transparency
With one tap, consumers will now be able to view why they were targeted with an ad, as well as the authorization information provided to Facebook, such as the business website, email, and Federal Election Commission (FEC) identification number. This update is aimed to expose the business or organization behind a Facebook page.
In addition to the ‘paid for by’ disclaimer, which was previously the only option viewable to consumers, Facebook is adding a “Confirmed Organization” label for advertisers that can prove they are registered with the United States government. This will serve as an immediate signal to consumers that the content is from a legitimate source.
New Authorization Requirements
The new regulations put into effect last year required all U.S. advertisers promoting content related to social issues, politics, or elections to disclose their business information and location.
Beginning in mid-September 2019, Facebook is increasing the required information that advertisers must provide to include one of these additional pieces:
- Tax-registered organization identification number (i.e., EIN)
- A government website domain that matches an email ending in .gov or .mil
- Federal Election Commission (FEC) identification number
Advertisers who fail to provide the updated information by mid-October 2019 risk having all of their ads paused.
There are other options for small businesses and politicians who may not have the same information and resources as larger organizations. Their ads will have an “About this ad” disclaimer instead of a “Confirmed Organization” label, which they can obtain through one of these two options:
- Submit an organization name by providing a verifiable phone number, business email, mail-deliverable address, and a business website with a domain that matches the email.
- Provide no organizational information, but rather rely solely on the Page Admin’s legal name on a personal identification document. For this option, the advertiser will not be able to use a registered organization name in disclaimers.
Social Issues Redefined
Facebook is refreshing its definition of social issues for promoted content, shrinking the original twenty subject areas (i.e., Values, Budgets, Energy, etc.) down to ten categories. If Facebook flags an ad promoting content that falls into a social issue category, the advertiser will be required to be authorized and disclose who paid for the ad. In other words, the process hasn’t changed, just the categories that are considered social issues.
While fewer categories may seem like Facebook is narrowing its view on what constitutes a social issue, the new categories are actually broader and give Facebook more latitude in requiring authorization. Facebook now categorizes social issues into the following 10 topics:
- Civil and social rights
- Political values and governance
- Security and foreign policy
Along with the new lens on social issues, Facebook also announced it will be improving enforcement for advertisers that are promoting related content.
What This Means for Marketers
In preparation for the upcoming 2020 election, Facebook is tightening controls for advertisers promoting social issues, politics, and elections by lengthening the authorization process and broadening the ad content that falls under the new restrictions.
Advertisers who previously completed the authorization process will need to follow up with additional information in order to maintain their status and promote regulated content. Advertisers who do not do so by the mid-October 2019 deadline will risk Facebook pausing all active paid campaigns.
Additionally, advertisers who were not previously required to comply with the authorization process may begin to see their ads disapproved if the content falls under the new definition of a social issue. Affected brands will either have to be authorized by Facebook and disclose who is paying for advertising or find ways to alter ad messaging.