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What Does This Mean for Advertisers?

The early stages of social media sites grappling with platforms being manipulated by government are upon us. Questions are arising surrounding the topic of data security and other previously-unaddressed security and privacy questions. Sites like Twitter and Facebook are some of the first to take action that requires advertisers and accounts to be authenticated before running sponsored content.

Facebook is the first to step up to the plate regarding their recent promise to crack down on political advertising. It should be noted that because of their limitations on all “issues of national importance,” all advertisers must go through a lengthy (2-4 week) validation process. So who determines what constitutes an “issue of national importance?” That’s right — Facebook does. They’ve outlined  a list of issues falling inside an exhaustive category list: abortion, budget, civil rights, crime, economy, education, energy, environment, foreign policy, government reform, guns, health, immigration, infrastructure, military, poverty, social security, taxes, terrorism, values. This list provides vague categories that could essentially cover any potential ad topic.

Twitter followed suit after Facebook’s stance with a similar verification process that is a bit less comprehensive and arguably simpler to complete. Twitter requires that the account that is used to run ads goes through the steps to authenticate. Twitter does not yet require each individual advertiser to go through the process.

The Reason Behind this New Feature

On the surface, these steps feel like a pain to advertisers who were previously using Facebook and Twitter advertising without too much struggle. These regulations are in the name of transparency, which is something most advertisers can get behind.

If we are pointing fingers, we should probably blame the policy change on Facebook’s recent data breaches. The personal information of 50 million users was compromised this past year. This came at a poor time considering Facebook was already dealing with another data security issue. Our tech overlord was slow to acknowledge the disinformation being advertised by Russian operatives across the platform prior to the 2016 election.

What does this mean for advertisers?

The exhaustive list of “politically important” content that Facebook might flag leaves little room for any advertisers to avoid this verification process. Essentially this means that advertisers are best suited to validate themselves personally on Facebook as soon as possible to avoid future authentication issues.  Even if advertisers aren’t running content that they deem politically important, Facebook still might flag it. To simplify all ad processes in the future, it is recommended that anyone running Facebook ads go through this process.

As previously mentioned, advertisers on Twitter just have to validate the account that they are using to run ad accounts. This process is simpler for agencies because not every individual has to go through and authenticate their identity. Regardless, it is best for advertisers to go through the Facebook and Twitter authentication process at the earliest convenience.

The Process

It may seem like a pain, but it will make it easier for valid sources to transparently advertise moving forward. This process will also provide Facebook and Twitter users with the confidence that they are not being fed slanted or politically-charged content without their knowledge. Once advertisers go to the settings in their Twitter or Facebook accounts, there is a fairly simple process that allows you to send a piece of mail with a validation code for you to type in. It isn’t overly complicated at all, but there are a few extra steps on Facebook. It is required that users enter the last four digits of their social security number and also take a photo of the front and back of their ID. This higher level of validation on Facebook might be due to the fact that a breach on their end is the reason for this wave of security.

There is a Facebook blueprint course that walks users through the steps that has proven useful for those lost in the process.

Countries that Aren’t the U.S

This process started in the United States in April 2018 and is gradually spreading to other countries as well. The countries that have to go through this process currently are Brazil, the U.S. and the UK.

In the grand scheme of things, advertisers can ultimately thank Facebook for making it more difficult for “fake or compromised accounts” to advertise to Facebook users. It’s a good thing. Really.