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Following the money: Facebook rolls out new political ad disclosures

Social media firms are taking new measures to disclose the sources of political ads. (Image source: YouTube screencap)

Social media giant Facebook introduced new rules for advertisers on Thursday, and launched a political ad archive for the purpose of increasing transparency by sourcing the messaging sent to your feed.

Ok, what does that mean?

In order to run a political ad on Facebook, advertisers will be required to verify their U.S. residency prior to being able to target messaging to Americans.

Facebook's director of product management, Rob Leathern, said, "We're up against smart, creative, well-funded adversaries who change their tactics as and when we spot abuse. But we believe that (the new initiatives) will help prevent future interference in elections on Facebook."

During a call with reporters on Thursday, Facebook's global politics and government outreach director, Katie Harbath, added, "Our intent is trying to help people understand who is trying to influence them on political and social issues, and why."

Another tool being implemented by Facebook is a label included in ads that a user may click on to find out who paid for it, the cost, and the demographics of who viewed it.

Users will also be able to flag political or issue-oriented ads that do not contain the newly required disclosures.

Twitter announced they'll also introduce a new ad policy this summer, and Google is expected to launch similar transparency measures by the end of this month.

A joint statement from the leader of Twitter's legal and public policy teams, Vijaya Gadde, and general manager of revenue product, Bruce Falck, said: "We are committed to enforcing stricter policies for political advertisers and providing clear, transparent disclosure for all ads on Twitter, with more details for political campaigning ads."

What brought this on?

The moves are aimed at prohibiting foreign interference with U.S. elections. Facebook has taken particular heat after Russian trolls invaded the platform in 2016, in a bid to stir up already-elevated American political discord.

A big push is being made to have the new policies in place prior to this fall's mid-term elections.

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