Facebook cracks down on political groups claiming 'news exemption'

More than 1,200 politically backed Facebook pages disguised as news orgs push political ads

Facebook is closing a loophole that allowed some political groups to post political advertisements without proper disclaimers that the social media site requires.

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Since 2016, Columbia University's Tow Center for Digital Journalism has uncovered more than 1,200 politically backed Facebook pages disguised as news organizations that push political advertisements without disclaimers under Facebook's news exemption rule.

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The social media giant on Tuesday said it is cracking down on these websites with direct ties to politicians, PACs, parties and political organizations so that they cannot exempt themselves from using disclaimers when posting political ads.

"While these kinds of Pages are allowed on Facebook, we believe it’s important to ensure that when it comes to advertising, these Pages are held to the same standard as political entities on Facebook," the site said in a Facebook Journalism Project blog post.

Facebook Elections sign (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

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The post added that such groups "must adhere to the authorization and disclaimer process for ads about social issues, elections, or politics" in Facebook's "Ad Library."

Facebook is also implementing new restrictions that will prevent such politically connected news pages from being "eligible for inclusion in Facebook News"—the website's personalized, algorithm-based news initiative—and having "access to news messaging on the Messenger Business Platform or the WhatsApp business API."

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The move comes less than three months ahead of the 2020 presidential election and highlights more efforts from Facebook to stifle U.S. and foreign organizations attempting to use the platform to manipulate voters.

Facebook came under fire after the 2016 presidential election for not taking enough action against Russian troll farms posting political ads from illegitimate accounts.

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