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Facebook announces new ad rules to ward off election meddling

Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook's annual F8 developer conference in 2015. (Facebook/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Facebook says it is beefing up its rules and safeguards regarding political advertisements to “prevent foreign interference” in elections in Europe and elsewhere.

The additional tools will be launched in the European Union in late March to help “make political advertising on Facebook more transparent,” the U.S. tech giant’s head of global policy and communications, Nick Clegg, said in Brussels on January 28.

The new rules will require political ads linked to the EU elections in May to be “authorized” and tagged with a “paid for by” disclaimer.

Clegg, a former British deputy prime minister hired by Facebook in October, said these tools will cover ads that “don’t explicitly back one candidate or political party but which focus on highly politicized topics like immigration.”

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All political ads will be stored in a “publicly searchable library” for up to seven years, along with the details of their reach and specific data on the buyer.

In a blog post, the world’s largest social network said that “the transparency tools for electoral ads will also launch in India in February and in Ukraine and Israel before their elections, with a global expansion before the end of June.”

Ukraine holds a presidential election on March 31, with a field of more than two dozen candidates likely to challenge President Petro Poroshenko, who has not officially announced his candidacy.

The measures are similar to those adopted for the November 2018 mid-term elections in the United States, Clegg said.

Facebook has been criticized over the last two years for not acting fast enough to combat fake news, propaganda operations, and extremist content spread on its platforms.

Ukraine has repeatedly warned Facebook about alleged Moscow-backed disinformation campaigns on its platform, including “fake news” to foment distrust in its pro-Western government and to promote support of Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and backing of separatists in the country’s east.

Facebook and Twitter removed millions of posts and closed accounts linked to influence operations by Russia, Iran, and other actors ahead of the 2018 U.S. polls.

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The U.S. intelligence community concluded in 2017 that Russia used a campaign of spreading propaganda on social media and hacking Democratic documents to try to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election in President Donald Trump’s favor.

U.S. Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating Russia’s role and whether there was any collusion by associates of Trump, who denies there was and calls the probe a “witch hunt.” Russia denies interfering.