What Labour's commitment to Facebook's ad transparency rules means for voters

The Labour Party has voluntarily committed to Facebook's new ad transparency rules, meaning voters will be able to see how much is spent on ads and who they are targeted at. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed on Thursday that Labour has committed to the social media rules - joining only the Greens - and that it will have its major election policy costings independently verified. 

"New Zealanders deserve a positive election. I don't want New Zealand to fall into the trap of the negative fake news style campaigns that have taken place overseas in recent years," Ardern said at the Labour caucus retreat in Martinborough. 

The rules mean voters will see:

  • Who the ad was funded by
  • How many people the ad might reach
  • How much the ad cost
  • Who the target audience of the ad is
  • Demographic data about the target audience such as age and sex
  • What regions the ad is being shown in
  • Where the ad will be run, such as Facebook and Instagram

"Facebook has introduced authorisation and transparency measures to make elections overseas fairer and the Labour Party will voluntarily adopt these measures here," Ardern said.  

"It means voters can see who is behind paid advertising online, how much they are spending and who they are targeting. The measures help avoid anonymous fake news style ads."

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson welcomed Labour's news, saying: "Increasingly we've seen overseas that misinformation and lies are spread online to achieve election wins."

Facebook's ad transparency tool, known as the Facebook Ad Library Report, is compulsory in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and the European Union, amongst others, but not in New Zealand. 

Facebook has pledged to try and stop the spread of misinformation by introducing the need for pages and advertisers to be 'authorised' in order to run ads about social issues, elections or politics in a given country.

It reflects Twitter's decision last year to ban on paid political advertising, with CEO Jack Dorsey saying voters need to be able to rely on what they are seeing during political campaigns.

Facebook's 'authorisation' element means any member of staff that wishes to run paid adverts using Facebook Ad Manager will need to become authorised to do so.

They will need to be an admin for the page running ads, confirm their identity, confirm New Zealand is their primary location and confirm they are eligible to be living in New Zealand. 

The process for this includes submitting official identification, such as birth certificate, drivers licence, passport, and forms which prove their right to reside.

Facebook has made efforts to be more transparent, particularly after Russian propaganda before the 2016 US presidential election was seen to have influenced the outcome, which was won by Donald Trump.

But the social media giant decided not to fact-check ads run by politicians, drawing backlash last year from Democratic candidates running in the 2020 presidential election.  

CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared in front of the US Congress late last year, where Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez asked if he saw "a potential problem here with a complete lack of fact-checking on political advertisements."

Zuckerberg replied, "In most cases, in a democracy, I believe that people should be able to see for themselves what politicians that they may or may not vote for are saying and judge their character for themselves." 

Prime Minister Ardern also talked about Labour's pledge to have major election policy costings independently verified.

"We will guarantee that the costings of all our major new policy announcements released during the election campaign will be independently verified so voters can be sure of what they are voting for."

She said the Government will continue work on establishing an independent policy costing unit for the 2023 election.

"Having policy costings independently verified improves the quality of information voters have about policies and ensures better policy. It's a good thing and we are happy to show leadership on this."

You can read more of Ardern's speech at the caucus retreat here.