Facebook Exempts News Publishers From Political Ad Archive

(Bloomberg) -- Facebook Inc. said it will stop including some publishers’ advertising in its political ad archive following months of criticism from news organizations.

Next year the social media giant will no longer require publishers who want to buy ads boosting exposure to their articles on politics to go through its political ad transparency process, the company said in a blog post Thursday.

Under Facebook’s current rules, any ads promoting political content -- even news articles on politics and elections --- are placed in a public archive for up to seven years. The archive includes information on who is paying for a political ad and the demographics of the ad’s viewers. The measures were initiated to prevent foreign interference in elections.

Earlier this year Facebook divided its political ads archive into two sections -- one for ads promoting news stories about politics and one for ads promoting political candidates and issues. Publishers were chosen to be part of the separate news section based, in part, on their membership in mainstream trade organizations.

Facebook is still finalizing the criteria for determining which media organizations will be exempt from its political ad rules next year, according to the company.

"We appreciate Facebook’s openness to our industry’s concerns leading up to today’s announcement and we look forward to working with them to better shape the criteria for defining a news organization," News Media Alliance President David Chavern said in a statement on Thursday. The social media giant previously brushed off an offer to work with the News Media Alliance on its political ad policies.

Journalism trade groups have argued that mainstream news organizations should be exempt from the requirements because they blur the lines between news coverage and political advocacy. But a solution that exempts certain publishers puts Facebook in the position of deciding outright which media organizations are credible.

Media trade group Digital Content Next praised Facebook’s decision to exempt some publishers from the ad archive and Twitter’s earlier efforts to differentiate news organizations from political candidates.

“We are pleased that Facebook understands and values the important role of news organizations," said Jason Kint, Chief Executive Officer of Digital Content Next, a New York-based association of online publishers. "We have worked cooperatively with Twitter who understood this from the beginning. We look forward to working in a similar fashion with Facebook.”

Bloomberg LLP is a member of Digital Content Next, whose membership includes the Associated Press and the New York Times, among other publishers.

In June, seven trade groups representing media publishers and broadcast organizations in more than 120 countries including the New York Times, BBC.com and 21st Century Fox sent a letter to Facebook criticizing the company’s decision.

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