After Bloomberg’s Campaign’s Paid Meme Fiasco, Facebook Will Now Politically Sponsored Content

Facebook has said that ahead of the presidential elections in the United States, its users will be able to track political sponsored content on Facebook and Instagram.

This move was announced by the company after it was revealed that the campaign team of Michael Bloomberg, a US Democratic presidential candidate, had begun to pay popular meme accounts on Facebook-owned Instagram for posting of content as a part of the social media campaigning strategy of the candidate for the 2020 presidential elections.

A new tool had been added by Facebook to its free social media tracking tool CrowdTangle that will allow users to see sponsored content for the presidential candidates, said Facebook director of product management Rob Leathern in a series of tweets.

US-based political candidates would be allowed to create and run sponsored content on its social networking platforms, Facebook had said earlier this month. However such content would not be catalogued in its overall public ad library.

Over recent weeks, a collection of influential meme-makers called Meme 2020 have been roped in by Bloomberg’s campaign to post sponsored content on Instagram accounts over recent weeks. Bloomberg’s campaign is running a highly-funded digital drive to fight against the Republican candidate and current US President Donald Trump in November.

Facebook’s branded content tool will have to be used by influencers to allow their content to be shown in the new CrowdTangle column. Such a measure will allow them to more clearly tag in an official sub-header that the post is a paid partnership.

The Bloomberg campaign has been contacted by Facebook and it has been asked ot make use of this tool to disclose the posts properly, the social media giant said.

“We don’t have visibility into financial relationships taking place off our platforms, which is why we’ve asked campaigns and creators to use our disclosure tools. On the broader topic of political branded content, we welcome clearer guidelines from regulators,” a Facebook spokeswoman said in a statement.

The issue of social media influencers is not explicitly addressed by the US Federal Election Commission’s rules. It however says that a disclaimer that informs readers and viewers of who paid for the content has to be posted for all public online communications that advocates in favor or against a candidate for the election for a fee.

Sponsored posts also need to be clearly labeled by social media influencers and content creators, according to the rules of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

“We push for maximum possible transparency across all of our content, and require that creators adhere to FTC disclosure requirements on sponsored content,” said Sabrina Singh, a spokeswoman for the Bloomberg campaign.

“Whenever possible, we push creators to use platform-specific branded content disclosure tools. However, basic business account tools are not made uniformly available to all Facebook and Instagram creators, so in those cases we require the FTC recommended copy disclosure.”

The branded disclosure tool might not be available for those content creators who had previously violated the company’s community standards, said Facebook’s Leathern in a tweet.

(Adapted from SCMP.com)

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