Back in May, Facebook announced its new policy on political advertising, requiring any advertiser running election-related or issue ads to complete an authorization process. The policy says that it applies to any ad that:
Is made by, on behalf of or about a current or former candidate for public office, a political party, a political action committee or advocates for the outcome of an election to public office; or
Relates to any election, referendum or ballot initiative, including "get out the vote" or election information campaigns; or
Relates to any national legislative issue of public importance in any place where the ad is being run; or
Is regulated as political advertising.
Facebook further defined "national issue of public importance" (dropping "legislative" in the definition) for purposes of its authorization requirement with a long laundry list of topics, among them abortion, guns, health, immigration, the economy, and "values."
Last week, Facebook pulled two ads, one from Walmart and one from P&G, as "political ads" lacking a "paid for by" disclosure. (Facebook subsequently reversed course on the Walmart ad, though not, at the time of this writing, on the P&G ad.) Both ads were clearly identifiable as brand-sponsored; indeed, both were explicitly about the brand's involvement in the topic discussed in the ad: P&G touted its commitment to LGBT inclusion efforts and Walmart touted its efforts to bring jobs back to the US.
Brands do not typically like to characterize their corporate or image advertising as "political." To the contrary. However, given Facebook's expansive List of Topics, it may be that many brand corporate image ads will now require compliance with Facebook's requirements for "political advertising." Will brands grit their corporate teeth and follow Facebook's requirements or will corporate image ads become even more anodyne? Stay tuned.
Facebook adopted new transparency rules for ads in the wake of the 2016 election. Facebook discovered Russian-backed groups were creating fake profiles and generating disinformation to influence U.S. voters, and in many cases the groups bought ads to reach larger audiences.