Facebook Allows Paid Political Messages Without Being Ads

San Francisco – Facebook decided today, Friday, to allow a type of paid political message that had evaded the rules governing the political announcements of the social network.

He modified his rule days after presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg exploded a legal vacuum to send humorous messages promoting his campaign in the accounts of popular personalities on Instagram followed by millions of younger people.

The use of Bloomberg technicality and the change in Facebook rules highlight the difficulties that technology companies and regulators have in keeping up with the changing nature of paid political messages.

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Before it was clearer what an advertisement was and what was not and, therefore, what was subject to disclosure and other rules. With social networks, a campaign can pay celebrities and other influential users to spread a message on their behalf without ever buying an ad and being subject to its rules.

“It is a new type of activity that simply did not exist when the rules for political internet communication were last updated,” said Commissioner Ellen L. Weintraub of the United States Federal Elections Commission.

The change includes what Facebook calls “brand content”: sponsored articles published by common users to whom organizations or companies usually pay. Advertisers pay directly to influential users to post about their brand.

Facebook does not make money with these publications and does not consider them publicity. As a result, brand content is not governed by Facebook’s advertising policies, which require candidates and campaigns to verify their identity with a US ID or postal address, and reveal how much they spend publishing each ad.

Until Friday, Facebook tried to prevent campaigns from using such branded content by prohibiting them from using a tool designed to help advertisers publish such content on Facebook and Instagram, which is owned by Facebook. Friday’s rule change will now allow campaigns in the United States to use this tool, as long as they are authorized by Facebook to post political ads and reveal who paid for the sponsored publications.

The Bloomberg campaign took the unusual step of paying social network influencers – people with a large following – to post Bloomberg memes on their Instagram accounts. Different versions of publications sponsored by the Bloomberg campaign were published in more than a dozen influential Instagram accounts, each with millions of followers.

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