Facebook Pledges to Hire 1,000 More Ad Reviewers Amid Russian Political Scandal

Facebook, in damage-control mode after the discovery that a Russia-linked entity bought political ads on the social platform, is promising to expand the size of its team that reviews advertising among other new measures.

The internet giant, which has more than 2 billion monthly users worldwide, outlined the plans Monday. The new steps include hiring 1,000 more employees to review ads over the next year — though Facebook isn’t saying how big that team is currently — as well as investing in artificial-intelligence systems to block ads that violate its policies.

“Enforcement is never perfect, but we will get better at finding and removing improper ads,” Joel Kaplan, Facebook VP of global policy, wrote in a blog post.

Last month, Facebook said it had identified about 3,000 ads linked to Russian sources, representing about $100,000 in ad spending from June 2015 to May 2017. The ads, evidently designed to influence the outcome of the U.S. presidential election, appear to have come from a Russian entity known as the Internet Research Agency, according to Facebook.

The social-media company has turned over the ads to Special Counsel Robert Mueller and also is furnishing them to congressional committees.

Facebook’s preference is to regulate itself — without the U.S. government enacting laws to force it to change how it buys and sells ads. In an initial response to the Russia flap, CEO Mark Zuckerberg last month said the company will require political advertisers to disclose which Facebook Page owner paid for an ad, which he compared to disclaimers required for political ads on TV. In addition, the company will make ads bought by a Facebook Page accessible for anyone to view; previously, those ads have been viewable only to the target audience.

Facebook’s response to the Russian-bought political ads is similar to the way it has reacted in the wake of other controversies. For example, after a spate of violent videos were published to Facebook, Zuckerberg in May said it would boost the size of its 4,500-employee content-reviewer group with 3,000 additional staffers worldwide.

Other steps Facebook announced Monday in an effort to boost advertising controls and transparency:

  • The company is starting work on identifying ad-targeting techniques that could be used in ways to circumvent Facebook’s policies;
  • The company is updating its policies to block ads that use “even more subtle expressions of violence,” according to Kaplan; its previous policies already prohibited “shocking content, direct threats, and the promotion of the sale or use of weapons”;
  • Facebook says it will now require “more thorough documentation” from advertisers that want to run ads related to U.S. federal elections; potential advertisers buying such ads will have to confirm the business or organization they represent before they can buy ads;
  • The company plans to “reach out to leaders in the industry and governments around the world” to share information on “bad actors and make sure they stay off all platforms.”

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