Political advertising has long been subjected to unique regulations, disclosures, and disclaimers, but that has primarily been the concern of candidates, PACs, and others in the political arena.
However, if you’ve tried to run an ad on Facebook, or boost a post, in recent months and you happened to mention a hot-button issue of national relevance to the United States of America (or, oddly, Brazil), you may have had your ad denied for content “related to politics or issues of national importance.” This recently happened to us when attempting to boost a post about an article addressing SEO, but referencing a major political figure. Even though the goal of the article was not intended to be partisan or political, Facebook’s recent policy change impacts industries (and advertisements) far beyond campaign-focused promotions.
It’s not surprising that Facebook is doubling down on advertising integrity in light of the how the platform was used by offshore advertisers in an attempt to influence our most recent presidential election. But if your business isn’t directly related to politics, why should you have to care about verifying your identity if Facebook flags your ads or boosted posts? And should you jump through Facebook’s hoops, or just give up on ads that don’t “make the cut”?
The reality is that Facebook is flagging more than politics in “Ads related to politics or issues of national importance.” The current list includes:
- civil rights
- foreign policy
- government reform
- social security
That’s a pretty extensive list, and (in many cases) open to broad interpretation. With items such as “energy,” “environment,” “health,” and “values” (among others), it’s easy to see how advertisers could struggle against this policy, without necessarily intending to open up a political discussion.
This Land Is Facebook’s Land
The whole USA isn’t Facebook’s land, but their platform is just that: theirs. Every decision or policy Facebook comes up with is rightly at their discretion, and while you’re free to take it or leave it as a user, you have to evaluate where Facebook’s services fit into your marketing plan. If your buyers are on Facebook, and the platform can help you achieve your business goals, then it’s a wise business decision to use Facebook in compliance with their rules, and making the most of their resources.
The List Is Likely to Grow—Wide and Deep
Facebook’s list of issues of “national importance” is already a mine field for advertisers, depending on how their content is interpreted. But like any living document, it’s likely to grow—not only in depth (as in increase in the number of topics)—but in width, as other nations may join the initiative to maintain the integrity of their internal paid promotions. If it rolls out to more and more countries, compliance may eventually be a requirement for all advertisers.
It’s Really Not that Painful to Comply
The good news is that it isn’t a terribly complicated process (though the documentation isn’t as clear as it could be). In a nutshell, set up two-factor authentication if you haven’t already, visit your business page’s settings, go to Authorizations, and follow the instructions to confirm your identity. (You’ll need clear images of your driver’s license or passport, your mailing address, and the last 4 digits of your SSN.) You’ll then be sent by postal mail an address confirmation with further instructions. After that is complete, you can set up compliance for any page that you administrate (so you only have to verify your identity and location in the US one time).
More Advertising Transparency Isn’t Necessarily a Bad Thing
The end goal is to make sure that advertisers discussing or promoting a political or social issue in the United States are indeed in the United States. The verification (and disclosure text added to flagged ads) will be helpful for consumers to verify the source of the content. Informed consumers are generally better consumers, so a couple extra steps can enhance your credibility. Facebook does disclose the security of its validation process, so while you may be squeamish about providing your government-issued ID, this is how they handle your information:
You’ll be required to submit information, including your residential address, a Driver’s License or Passport and the last 4 digits of your Social Security number. The only reason we collect this information is to confirm your identity. We use trusted service providers to do this. Your information won’t be shared on your profile, in your ads or with other Admins on your Page or ad accounts. After we confirm your identity, we’ll delete this information from our system within 30 days.
Verifications and authorizations for online profiles can be frustrating extra steps, so it’s not always welcome when a new one is added. But Facebook’s new political ad authorization isn’t too complex, and complying now will likely prevent frustration later.