Facebook tightens policy on election and political ads in Singapore

Facebook is enforcing its policy on ads about social issues, elections and politics in Singapore by rolling out its ad transparency tools. The tools require advertisers to be authorised and place "Paid for by" disclaimers on their ads, and enter their ads in the Ad Library for seven years. This is in a bid to bring greater transparency and authenticity to advertising, and reduce the spread of misinformation and prevent foreign interference in elections. The ad transparency tools were rolled out globally in June this year.

According to public policy director Katie Harbath in a blog post, advertisers who want to run ads about social issues, elections or politics in Singapore will need to first confirm their identity and location, and disclose who’s responsible for the ad.

An advertiser can select themselves, a Page they run or their organisation to appear in the “Paid for by” disclaimer. Facebook requires advertisers to provide additional information, such as a phone number, email and website, if they choose to use their organisation or Page Name in the disclaimer.

These requirements hold advertisers accountable for the ads they run on Facebook and Instagram.

The authorisation process is also required for advertisers wanting to run ads related to specific social issues, such as those about civil and social rights, immigration, crime, political values and governance. "These four social issues were decided based on external consultation and our internal research, which found that Singaporeans discuss, debate or advocate for or against these issues on Facebook," Harbath said.

She added that advertisers should start this process immediately to help avoid delays in running these types of ads, as authorisations may take a few weeks to complete. Meanwhile, authorised advertisers will have their ads placed in the Ad Library for seven years, including their disclaimer information. There, consumers can also learn more about the ad like its range of impressions and spend, as well as demographic information about the people who saw the ad such as age, gender and location.

"We know we can’t protect elections on our own, which is why we offer access to the Ad Library API, which we built expressly for researchers, academics, journalists and the public to study political advertising,": Harbath explained.

With this move, the results on API queries in Singapore will now be more robust as advertisers are required to authorise and add disclaimers. Additionally, Facebook will introduce the Ad Library Report within the next few weeks, which provides individuals who are not as technical with similar information about ads related to social issues, elections or politics.

"We will continue to refine and improve our policies and tools as part of our commitment to help protect the integrity of elections in Singapore and around the world," Harbath added.

Last month, the Singapore government formed the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee which sits under the Prime Minister's Office. Multiple media reports including TODAY and The Straits Times said polls must be held by April 2021.

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