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Facebook to allow paid political messages that aren’t ads

Its policy change comes days after presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg exploited a loophole to run such humorous messages promoting his campaign on the accounts of popular Instagram personalities followed by millions of younger people.

The change involves what Facebook calls “branded content” — sponsored items posted by ordinary users who are typically paid by companies or organisations. Advertisers pay the influential users directly to post about their brand.

Facebook makes no money from such posts and does not consider them advertising. As a result, branded content isn’t governed by Facebook’s advertising policies, which require candidates and campaigns to verify their identity with a US ID or mailing address and disclose how much they spent running each ad.

Until Friday, Facebook tried to deter the use of paid posts through influential users as political messages. Specifically, it barred political campaigns from using a tool designed to help advertisers run branded posts on Facebook and Instagram, which is owned by Facebook.

Friday’s rule change will now allow campaigns in the US to use this tool, provided they’ve been authorised by Facebook to run political ads and disclose who paid for the sponsored posts.

Online political ads have been controversial, especially after it was revealed Russia used them in an attempt to influence the 2016 presidential election.

In response, Facebook has rolled out a number of rules to prevent a repeat of that, though it has declined to fact-check political ads and refuses to ban even blatently false messages.

 

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