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Facebook now requires identity, location of advertisers for political ads in Singapore

SINGAPORE — Starting Thursday (Sept 26), anyone who wants to run advertisements on Facebook about social issues, elections or politics in Singapore will need to first confirm their identity and location, and disclose who’s responsible for the ad.

Mr Nick Clegg, Facebook's vice-president of global affairs and communications, speaking at the Atlantic Festival about how the company has built up defences against the spread of misinformation.

Mr Nick Clegg, Facebook's vice-president of global affairs and communications, speaking at the Atlantic Festival about how the company has built up defences against the spread of misinformation.

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SINGAPORE — Starting Thursday (Sept 26), anyone who wants to run advertisements on Facebook about social issues, elections or politics in Singapore will need to first confirm their identity and location, and disclose who’s responsible for the ad.

This means that such advertisers will have to use ad transparency tools that Facebook has been progressively rolling out across the world. 

These tools enable advertisers to become authorised, place “Paid for by” disclaimers on their ads and enter their ads in the Ad Library for seven years.

Anyone can access the library and learn more about the ad, such as how much it cost the advertiser, how many people it reached and demographic information about the people who saw the ad such as age, gender and location.

Advertisers would also be required to provide additional information such as a phone number, email and website if they decide to use their organisation or page name in the “Paid for by” disclaimer.

These requirements hold advertisers accountable for the ads they run on Facebook and Instagram, said Facebook’s public policy director Katie Harbath.

The authorisation process also applies to advertisers who want to run ads based on specific social issues, such as civil and social rights, immigration, crime, political values and governance.

These issues were found to be those that Singaporeans discuss, debate or advocate for or against on Facebook.

Ms Harbath said: “Facebook has incredible potential to be a positive force for democracy around the world. It gives people a voice regardless of their age or political beliefs, and it encourages debate and the exchange of ideas.

“To enable healthy discourse in Singapore, we’ve taken steps to reduce the spread of misinformation, help prevent foreign interference in elections and — more recently — to bring greater transparency and authenticity to advertising.”

The announcement comes as Singapore is headed for a General Election, which is due by April 2021, and as global scrutiny has intensified on the way social media platforms have been used to spread misinformation, especially in the run up to elections. 

Speaking at the Atlantic Festival in Washington DC on Tuesday, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs and communications Nick Clegg noted: “It is no secret that Facebook made mistakes in 2016, and that Russia tried to use Facebook to interfere with the election by spreading division and misinformation.”

But the company has learned the lessons of 2016 and has spent the three years since building its defenses to stop that happening again, he said.

This includes cracking down on fake accounts – the main source of fake news and malicious content, bringing in independent fact-checkers to verify content and recruiting some 30,000 people and investing in artificial intelligence systems to take down harmful content.

While the ad transparency tools rolled out in Singapore on Thursday have been implemented in over 50 countries worldwide, including Malaysia, the Philippines, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, they have not yet been introduced in several major markets, including the United States, Great Britain or Russia.

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