The politics of midterm campaign ads part 2 is the second of a three part series that dives into the latest social media ad policy changes, the upcoming midterm elections, and how they may be influencing each other.
Midterm Elections Meddling Influences on Social Media
It’s abundantly clear that Russian operatives have been actively and passively meddling in American politics for at least the last two years, and possibly longer.
According to research detailed by BuzzFeed.News, Aleksandra Krylova and Anna Bogacheva arrived in the U.S. on June 4, 2014, well ahead of the 2016 presidential election. While here, Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team believe they visited California, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, Nevada and Texas to gather information before their return flight on June 26.
Those 22 days may have been all it took to kickstart a huge disinformation campaign backed by Russia.
Social Media: Innocence Lost
Everyone knows that there’s nothing on the Internet that’s truly safe—no real privacy, no actual troll-free zones.
But it was so easy to be lulled into a comfortable, even intimate attitude with social media prior to the 2016 election. It was the place to share photos from vacations or bragging about little Timmy’s first home run. Users shared their lunches with friends and eagerly awaited their recipes. It was an innocent place, and that’s what made it so easy to exploit.
Since Russia’s Internet Research Agency and a baker’s dozen of operatives have been named and found guilty of tampering with a foreign nation’s political process, social media has become less open, less welcoming and far less trusting. This isn’t really good, either, since social media should be about being social. That breakfast photo definitely belongs there so people can discuss the merits of eggs with other people across the globe.
Closed Door Strategy Meetings
In an effort to keep social media social while maintaining a higher level of proactive security, the biggest names in Internet are coming together to strategize. According to BuzzFeed News, a dozen Internet companies that include Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Snapchat were invited to a closed door meeting to get the ball rolling. This was their second meeting as a group.
The Internet companies’ first meeting was in May, with Department of Homeland Security Under Secretary Chris Krebs and a representative from the FBI’s Foreign Influence Task Force, Mike Bruham. That first meeting was a huge disappointment, since the tech companies assumed they’d get useful information from their government counterparts and left empty-handed.
Because there’s ample evidence that Russian tampering in the upcoming midterm elections is highly likely, both the government and the tech companies that are being exploited in order for the Russians to succeed have to get in front of the problem. Nearly every social media platform has updated its political ad policies ahead of the midterms, but Facebook has gone a little beyond that: Zuck is building a real-world war room to monitor the digital world.
His situation room, with its multiple screens displaying in-the-moment metrics from across Facebook, will be staffed with people representing all the disciplines within Facebook. Samidh Chakrabarti, Facebook’s Civil Engagement product manager, recently gave an interview with NBC News Business Correspondent Jo Ling Kent in which he shared more about Facebook’s plan to keep social media safe for the midterm elections.
“I think we are in a much better place than we were in 2016,” Chakrabarti explained. “But it is an arms race. And so that’s why we’re remaining ever vigilant, laser focused to make sure that we can stay ahead of new problems that emerge. This is going to be a never-ending process and that’s exactly why we’re investing so much in both people and technology — to be as prepared as possible for the midterms.”
A Few of the New Rules for Political Ads
Although most of the big players in social media are checking in with Facebook and vice versa, they have also independently developed a grab bag of new rules revolving around advertising for each individual platform. The ones marketers are most likely to need to know are below (additional information is available here):
Facebook. After May 25, all political advertisers will have to have verifiable identity and location data. All ads that are political in nature will be clearly marked with a “Paid For” label that’s clickable and leads to an archive of current and past ads run by the same group or person.
Twitter. As of May 30, profile pages of US midterm candidates will be clearly identified. A new label will list the office the candidate is running for, as well as the state and district and a blue icon of a government building to make it clear that they are a candidate. Political advertisers will have to identify themselves and provide a FEC ID. With no FEC ID, a notarized form will have to be sent to Twitter before any political ads can be run.
LinkedIn. The business networking site isn’t messing around. All political ads are now banned, including those that advocate for or against ballot propositions. Anything that has an end goal of influencing an election will not be allowed on LinkedIn.
It’s a fairly safe thing to say that no one expected election meddling to the extreme that was demonstrated during 2016. However, the denizens of the Internet aren’t going to take it anymore and they’re joining forces to ensure the midterm elections are as fair and free from foreign influence as they can be.