News Analysis by Hannah Kavanagh and Chris Mendez
Facebook is rolling out new rules for political ads in Singapore ahead of the city-state’s upcoming election. The new regulations already in effect in the United States, the United Kingdom and Brazil will now apply to all political ads in Singapore, according to a Bloomberg article, “Facebook Tightens Rules on Political Ads in Singapore Before Election”.
Facebook established these stricter regulations for political advertisements to combat one of the most widespread epidemics of the 21st century: the spread of misinformation.
The popular social media site now requires advertisers posting content on political issues to register their phone number, website, and e-mail if they want to publish content under their organization’s official page. The tighter rules will be in place as Singapore prepares for a general election that must be held by April 2021 and are seen as a response to critics who accuse Facebook of doing too little to stop the spread of misinformation. The Singaporean government also passed a bill to combat “fake news” and the spread of misinformation in May.
This misinformation phenomenon is a global problem that feeds into the increased popularity of political advertising on social media platforms. Political ads often disguise themselves as news stories to gain attention from the general public. Some people can be tricked into believing that they are a form of news, especially if they discuss social or political issues. This in turn perpetuates a cycle in which people who mistake them for news, click on the ads, which then leads the companies funding the ads to publish more ads on social media, thus restarting the cycle.
Takeaway: With misinformation encroaching upon the rights of citizens around the world, it is more important than ever to remember the news literacy rule, “Know your neighborhood”, so you can discern what is news and what is advertising or propaganda. Facebook’s move to require more transparency when it comes to political ads in Singapore is seen as a step in the right direction, but experts say there is no guarantee that it will enforce those rules and actually reduce misinformation. According to Bloomberg, Singapore’s Minister of Law has called Facebook “unreliable.” He believes that social media companies cannot police themselves when it comes to misinformation, and says that Singapore may be forced to introduce additional legislation to counter “foreign attempts to influence domestic politics.” In the U.S., a bipartisan group of senators has just called for Congress, the White House and Silicon Valley to take “sweeping action” to keep foreign actors from using social media platforms like Facebook to interfere in the 2020 election. So there are many governments with the same concerns, watching to see if these new rules for political ads and fake news are a real solution.