Publishers and media have responded with an impressive show of solidarity against Facebook and its ads policy. Seven high-powered associations are signatories to a new letter sent to Facebook protesting a part of its policy that would lump archived news articles in with political and advocacy ads. The seven associations (American Society of News Editors, Digital Content Next, European Publishers Council, The Association of Magazine Media, News Media Alliance, Society of Professional Journalists and WAN-IFRA) represent over 20,000 news publications in over 120 countries. In the letter, they ask Facebook to immediately revise its political advertising policy to exempt news publications from being archived with the political ads. The letter also insinuates that, once again, Facebook is not listening or working with news publishers to solve problems.
In late May, Facebook (along with Twitter) publicized new policies regarding political advertisers and the ads they pay to promote. Basically, advertisers will have to self-identify and verify themselves. The policy is currently in place and applications for registration are now being accepted. Of course, everyone is aware of the havoc allegedly caused by Russian activity utilizing Facebook and other social media in the 2016 U.S. elections. This new policy is in response to that and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s desire to have something in place before the 2018 midterms as well as the “need to take a broader view of our policy to make sure we’re not just reacting to issues. “Candidates and committees must provide their FEC ID, and individuals or non-FEC registered organizations will have to submit a notarized form. Then it is up to Facebook to validate these individuals or organizations. The rules won’t apply to foreign nationals because they will not be allowed to target political ads to people based in the U.S.
Facebook believes its approach to archiving news articles with ads reflects an effort to be more transparent about political advertising. The seven member alliance acknowledges the tech giant’s intentions are both “reasonable” and “important.” However, it’s the execution that is bothersome for news organizations that pay for the privilege of Facebook boosting exposure to their news content. But the letter makes clear that the group feels having that content archived with political ads will make it appear “biased.” Some individual media outlets have already publicly indicated they will pull their paid promotion on Facebook due to their concerns about the policy, even though it would obviously be detrimental to its business.
For its part, the group did outline three “broad” recommendations in the letter regarding Facebook’s archiving:
1. All marketing by news organizations remains outside any archive until full solutions are put into place.
2. All of our advertising is treated as general advertising and is not placed into the political category by the mere fact that it mentions politics or issues.
3. The global news industry plays a leadership role in developing and contributing to the maintenance of a news exemption observed by Facebook.
And the letter also spelled out criteria to be taken into consideration for determining exemptions. It suggests exemptions for:
1. News organizations that have a dedicated professional editorial staff that create and disseminate original news and related content concerning local, national, or international matters of public interest on at least a weekly basis.
2. News organizations commercially marketed through subscriptions, advertising, or sponsorship, or is a democratically accountable, properly constituted not-for-profit.
And for news publishers or reporters from around the world without affiliation, the group suggests that there are credible organizations available for Facebook to work with to make determinations of exemption. It appears the strength in numbers has at least made enough of an impression on Facebook for it to recently intimate that an updated policy will be in place by summer.
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