As it continues to work on new ways to stamp out political interference, and misuse of user data for such purpose, Facebook has announced that it will be extending its restrictions on political ad content into more regions this year, ahead of local elections.
As reported by Reuters, Facebook will implement new regulations in India, Nigeria, Ukraine and the European Union within the next few months. Each region will see different elements rolled out, based on related local laws, but each will have some form of additional protection - for example:
"Beginning on Wednesday in Nigeria, only advertisers located in the country will be able to run electoral ads, mirroring a policy unveiled during an Irish referendum last May. The same policy will take effect in Ukraine in February."
The measures in each region won't be as comprehensive as Facebook's expanded 'Issues Ads' policies in the US, though they will, in some regions, include the 'Ad Archive', which will list all ads from politically affiliated groups for a period of seven years from posting.
As noted, the moves are designed to stop another Cambridge Analytica type situation, where Facebook data can be misused to influence voters based on their personal leanings. Thus far, Facebook's new regulations in the US have proven beneficial - though some loopholes have been detected, including the ability for non-affiliated groups to place ads on behalf of another candidate.
For its part, Facebook says that it's still developing the best way to enact such rules, and their new roll-outs will reflect those learnings. This is a positive, but it does still seem like we have some way to go before we can trust what Facebook is showing to voters in the lead up to the polls.
And that's a key point - as Reuters notes, along with the above-noted regions, Australia, Indonesia, Israel and the Philippines are also set to hold key votes this year, and Facebook is still weighing its policies for these additional regions. There's no question Facebook can be misused to skew political behavior. Hopefully, The Social Network is able to better police related content and disclosure in each region before it's too late.
Of course, that will be hard - much of the focus of politically motivated groups is now shifting to private groups and individual sharing, moving it further from Facebook's detection spotlight. But as we've seen in other regions, such scrutiny is needed - Facebook has the widest potential reach of any single platform in the world, and thus, the largest potential influence on voter behavior.
It's important that all is done to ensure that people are accurately informed ahead of the relevant polls.