Facebook tries talking the EU’s language on political advertising
When it comes to Big Tech, one region is particularly keen to see regulatory oversight win the day: the European Union (EU). The EU’s implementation of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations) last May was ground-breaking in regards to what it expects of online businesses re: privacy concerns. And the EU was talking tough on internet giants since before US lawmakers were even considering regulatory frameworks. Now Facebook, the social media giant that’s been at the heart of the tech backlash, is making moves to close the gap between it and EU authorities.
Strong earnings helped Facebook to recoup some of its losses from last year: up 25% year to date
Source: Yahoo Finance
Facebook’s troubles started with political advertising. British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica used stolen Facebook data to ‘micro-target’ political ads on the platform in Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign for the White House. It used similar techniques, and some of the same data, in a raft of other elections worldwide. The fallout of this scandal hit Facebook hard, as its advertising business and privacy laws came under scrutiny. Now, the company says it wants to repair its reputation – and it’s focussing on political advertising.
Facebook’s new approach to political advertising is being headed up by a new spokesperson, who is no stranger to the world of government: Nick Clegg, former deputy prime minister of the UK. In a speech clearly designed to align Facebook with prevailing opinions in the EU, he told listeners: “we are at the start of a discussion which is no longer about whether social media should be regulated, but how it should be regulated.”
Moving forward, Clegg said that Facebook would only allow “authorised” entities with confirmed identities to purchase certain types of advert in Europe. The company will also work to make political advertising as transparent as possible, letting users search archives of data about how well the ads performed, how much they cost, and the demographics of the people who viewed them.
According to EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova, the company “has to do much more to restore trust of the regulators and many of its users.” She added that regulators are “closely monitoring Facebook’s actions and the path they choose to take when it comes to protection of personal data.” Clearly, there is some way to go if bridges are to be rebuilt. But Facebook’s recent announcement that it now employs 30,000 people to work on “safety and security” (three times as many as it employed in 2017, when it discovered an extensive Russian manipulation campaign against US voters) should go some way to reassuring even the most cynical observer.
Dominion holds Facebook in its Global Trends Ecommerce Fund.
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