Facebook has flagged it may make changes to the way political ads are bought on its platform ahead of the Australian federal election this year.
The social media giant is currently reviewing its policies for electoral advertising in a range of countries which are holding elections this year, including Nigeria, India and Indonesia, some of the world’s largest democracies.
The changes being introduced in some parts of the world include things like blocking political ads from being bought outside the country and publicly archiving all electoral ads in a searchable library to increase transparency. It builds on work such as cracking down on bots which spread misinformation, removing fake accounts and hiring more humans to work on safety and security issues.
The intent is to prevent foreign interference in elections and curb the distribution of fake news or misinformation campaigns, after the platform was criticised for not doing enough to stop Russian interference during the 2016 US presidential campaign.
The global changes are an extension of policies which have already been introduced in Ireland, Brazil, Britain and the US last year, and vary from region to region.
Katie Harbath, Facebook’s director of global politics and outreach told Reuters that Facebook’s policies differ between countries to reflect local laws and conversations with governments and civil society groups.
She said Facebook is aiming to have a set of tools that applies to advertisers globally by the end of June, which will be informed by the elections taking place in the first half of 2019.
For Australians, further changes to the Facebook platform are expected to be announced once the election (which has to be held before 18 May 2019) is officially called. It has not yet specified which of policies will be implemented locally.
Last year Facebook introduced an “info & ads” tab to all pages, which displays all the ads a page is currently displaying.
So far neither Prime Minister Scott Morrison or opposition leader Bill Shorten have active ad campaigns attached to their Facebook pages, nor does the Australian Liberal party. The Australian Labor party is running two ads on live sheep exports.
Despite an election not yet being called, Clive Palmer has already embarked on a mass marketing electoral campaign, claiming to have sent texts to 5.6 million Australian phones.