Facebook has been busy this year with election season barreling its way towards us here in the US. They have faced criticism over everything from the handling of politicians to misinformation from users about voting locations.
They have reacted with new features that empower the user, and official channels that communicate items related to voting.
The scrutiny has been alive and well since the 2016 election, where it was found misinformation was widely spread on the platform.
Central to some of those strategies were entities creating Pages that identified themselves as news source. In reality, they were a political entity at their core, but because they were technically “news,” they weren’t subject to the same rules being slapped onto political entities. The self-declared news entities will now have the same standards applied.
The “news exemption” Facebook offers meant that ads run by those publishers did not have to be labeled as political, or adhere to the rules imposed on them.
How Facebook Defines a Politician
Following through with these actions means Facebook has to define entities very specifically. First, this is how Facebook defines whether an entity is a political body or politician:
- “an organization, company, or other group whose predominant purpose is to influence politics and elections.”
- That includes things like political parties, PACs and Super PACs, and entities regulated as “Social Welfare Organizations”
- Businesses that provide political consulting or other services related to candidates and elections are also categorized as political entities.
These definitions are important, because they are referenced in this new policy that will define a political media outlet.
How Facebook Will Define a Political Outlet
The next step is then identifying news organizations where the above-mentioned players may be stakeholders.
The criteria include:
- An outlet owned by by a political entity or politician.
- A politician is serving in a position of power, like its CEO or Editor.
- The news outlet shares proprietary Facebook information with a politician or political body. This means things like locations, gender, ages, etc.
- The Page owner is a political entity.
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Limitations on News Distribution
Publishers that identify as a news outlet but meet the criteria above will be treated differently.
They will still be allowed to register as a news entity, but their reach will be more limited. Namely, they will not be eligible for inclusion in the News tab, and they will not be permitted to use the news messaging options on the Messenger Platform or in WhatsApp Business
Timing of the Announcement
Aside from the tribulations noted above since the 2016 election, there’s likely something else driving the timing of this push. At the end of July, Google confirmed it would be enforcing new policies to further crack down on advertisers hiding their identities – but also not allowing distribution of illegally obtained information to click bait their ads.
Facebook confirmed the information to Axios. The full write up can be found here.
Additional information about the Google restrictions on clickbait and identity masking is covered on the Axios site as well.