Tech: Facebook will label all political ads in the UK as it tries to clean up the Cambridge Analytica mess (FB)

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Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer will appear before MPs on Thursday morning.

Facebook is going to make it easier to see how political ads are targeted at voters.

  • Facebook will label all political ads in the UK as "political" in an effort to become more transparent about how politicians use its platform to target voters.
  • It will also show how much political parties have spent on ads, and only accept ads from authenticated accounts.
  • Chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer will promise the changes for May 2019 when he appears before British parliamentarians on Thursday.
  • Schroepfer will apologise for Facebook's role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which saw 87 million user profiles handed to the controversial political research firm.

Facebook is about to become a lot more transparent about political advertising on its platform.

Here's a summary of the changes:

  • The company will start labelling all UK political ads as "political."
  • Facebook will only accept political ads from authenticated accounts.
  • It will place all political ads in a searchable archive for seven years where people can see how many times those ads were viewed and how much they cost.
  • People will be able to see which demographic was targeted by the ads.

Chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer will announce the changes when he appears before UK parliamentarians on Thursday morning to explain the Cambridge Analytica data scandal. In written testimony, he will say he is "deeply sorry" about the scandal, according to remarks seen by Business Insider.

"As Facebook has grown, people everywhere have gotten a powerful new tool to stay connected to the people they care about, make their voices heard, and build communities and businesses," Schroepfer's testimony will say.

"But it’s clear now that we didn’t do enough to prevent these tools from potentially being used for harm as well. We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a mistake."

Ads on Facebook are highly targeted, and so there is little transparency about what political parties and politicians might be showing to voters on the platform. It's widely thought that US president Donald Trump successfully capitalised on Facebook's ad systems, and the way it prioritises provocative content.

Facebook will make the changes to political ads in time for the local elections in May 2019 in England and Northern Ireland. It's also made a similar commitment in the US.

By June 2018, UK Facebook users will be able to see more about general ads too through a "view ads" button. This will let users see all the ads a given page is showing to users via Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram. The company has been trialling the feature in Canada.

MPs are likely to grill Schroepfer about how the firm failed to protect its users from having their data scraped. Politicians originally wanted CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify, but he has avoided the firing line in the UK so far.

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