A Facebook Inc. logo sits on display at Station F, a mega-campus for startups located inside a former freight railway depot, in Paris, France. (Photographer: Christophe Morin/Bloomberg)

Facebook Unveils Political Ad Transparency Ahead of India Polls

(Bloomberg) -- Facebook Inc. announced new standards for political advertising in India, just weeks before a crucial countrywide vote is due to be declared, as the scandal-torn company scurried to prevent election-time abuse.

Facebook and Instagram users will begin to see political ads with “published by” or “paid for by” disclaimers, and will also have access to a searchable ad library to learn more about political ads including spend and the audience demographic that viewed them, Shivnath Thukral, Facebook’s public policy director for India & South Asia, and Product Manager Sarah Schiff said in a statement on Thursday.

Facebook has been roiled in a series of privacy scandals beginning with the revelation that data firm Cambridge Analytica improperly obtained the personal data of as many as 87 million Facebook users ahead of the 2016 U.S. elections. The social media giant came under intense scrutiny since allegations of Russian interference surfaced after the U.S. presidential polls. To address the criticism, India is one of the several countries where Facebook has rolled out new standards alongside the U.S., U.K and Brazil.

“We are committed to creating a new standard of transparency and authenticity for political advertising on Facebook and Instagram,” the executives said. The changes would encompass ads that reference political figures, political parties, elections, and ads advocating for or against legislation, they said. Enforcement will begin Feb. 21.

In the coming weeks, users will start seeing country locations of those that run political ads. Users will also be able to report ads that do not include a disclaimer.

On Wednesday, Facebook’s WhatsApp messaging platform too underscored its recent product changes to gear up for the upcoming election in India including forwarded labeling, which helps people know when a received message was not created by the person who sent it, an educational ad campaign, improvements to WhatsApp groups and an easy way to report and exit unwanted groups.

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