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Meta announces new rules for ads on social issues for Facebook, Instagram in India

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Meta is announcing new rules for ads on social issues on Facebook and Instagram for advertisers in India. The new enforcement will require that anyone running ads on social issues will need to be authorized in order to do so. Moreover, these ads will need to include disclaimers with the name of the person or organization running these ads.

The new rules will be applicable on ads around nine social issues topics. These are listed as environmental politics, crime, economy, health, political values ​​and governance, civil and social rights, immigration, education, and finally security & foreign policy.

According to a company statement, the reason it is enforcing these new rules is that they have learned over the past few years that “certain types of speech have the most meaningful impact on public opinion and how people vote at the polls,” and this includes ads on social issues.

Facebook already requires that all political ads in India go through the authorization process and include a “Paid for by” disclaimer. The policy came in place in 2019 ahead of the General Elections in India.

When it comes to authorizations for running an ad, it means the user must confirm their identity and location, and give more details about who paid for or published the ad. The ads will also get added to the company’s Ad Library for seven years, which it has been doing for political ads.

Those ads which do not have the correct authorization or disclaimers will be removed from the platform and archived in a public ad library for seven years as well, the company said.

The change is significant because Facebook’s ad revenue continues to grow in India. The new rules also mean a wide variety of ad content will now come under the new rules. As the Indian Express reported Facebook India Online Services reported a 41 per cent year-on-year increase in gross advertising revenue at Rs 9,326 crore for the financial year 2020-21, while the net revenue grew 22 per cent to Rs 1,481 crore during the period. Facebook and Google dominate the online ads space in the Indian market as well.

It will be interesting to see how Facebook enforces this new rule. The company has acknowledged that ads on social issues can often be around “sensitive, heavily debated and highly politicized topics over which the public can be deeply divided.”

The statement adds that “these additional transparency features” are “designed to promote safe and healthy debate on influential topics so that people can better understand who’s trying to influence them with ads.”

Facebook also has given examples of ads in each social issue that would require authorization, and those which might not.

For example for ads around crime, the definition for India states that these include “discussion, debate and/or advocacy for or against topics – including but not limited to domestic violence and sexual crimes” and such ads will be subject to review and enforcement.

Examples listed in this space are: “India is one of only 36 countries around the world where marital rape isn’t illegal – the exception to marital rape is enshrined in our laws.” Another example is “Have you been a victim to cyber crimes recently? Do you think we, as a community, should do something about it? Sign our petition today to show your support for victims of cyber crime!”

However, someone promoting a podcast around crime would not need authorisation, according to the example.

In the economy segment, the definition includes ad content that “includes discussion, debate and/or advocacy for or against topics – including but not limited to tax reform, monetary policy and economic growth. For instance ads such as “The government’s economic policies in the past seven years have been failures,” or even “Help the aged lead a better life by supporting old age homes for the poor elderly in rural India,” would require authorization and a disclaimer .

On the issue of environment, ad content any “discussion, debate and/or advocacy for or against topics – including but not limited to climate change, global position on environment and protection of wildlife pollution” will face review. Examples given include one demanding action on air pollution and another on the destruction of forests.

For ads about security and foreign policy, authorization will be needed where the content includes “discussion, debate and/or advocacy for or against topics – including but not limited to foreign relations, trade policies, and disputed territories – are subject to review and enforcement .”

Examples include: “The Prime Minister’s addresses to the nation are highly anticipated as it provides the vision of his government and trade relations with other countries.”

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