SINGAPORE – Sociopolitical advertising on Facebook and Instagram will undergo more scrutiny ahead of Singapore’s upcoming general election.

The social media giant announced measures to bring greater transparency on its Singapore platforms on Thursday (Sept 26).

Advertisers will be required to confirm their identity and location, and disclose who is responsible for the advertisements. The authorisation process will cover advertisers who run advertisements relating to social issues such as civil and social rights, immigration, crime, political values and governance.

The move comes after the Election Department’s announcement on Sept 4 that the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee was convened last month, which is seen as the first formal step towards a general election. The next Singapore general election has to be held by April 2021.

On Wednesday, Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said at a conference on foreign interference in domestic politics that Singapore needs laws to counter foreign attempts to influence its domestic politics and public opinion. He cited examples of how foreign interference has taken place at home and globally, including attempts to influence the 2016 United States election. He added that the Government wants to work with technology companies to address the problem.

Facebook’s public policy director for global elections, Ms Katie Harbath, announced the initiatives for Singapore on Thursday. The move is part of a global roll-out of its advertisement transparency tools announced in June. The tools will enable advertisers in certain countries to get authorised, place “paid for by” disclaimers on their advertisements and keep their advertisements in a library for seven years.

“Starting today, we are making this a requirement in Singapore and will begin proactively enforcing our policy on ads about social issues, elections and politics,” Ms Harbath said.

GETTING AUTHORISED

Facebook said that those who wish to run ads regarding social issues, elections or politics on Facebook’s Singapore platforms will need to confirm their identity and location and disclose who is responsible for the advertisement. An advertiser can select itself, a page it runs or its organisation to appear in the “paid for by” disclaimer.

Advertisers will also be required to provide additional information such as a phone number, e-mail address or website if they choose to use their organisation or page name in the disclaimer.

“Authorisations may take a few weeks to complete so advertisers should start this process immediately to help avoid delays in running these types of ads,” Ms Harbath said.

Once authorised, advertisers will have their advertisements placed in a library for seven years, including their disclaimer information.

The library will include information about each advertisement, including its range of impressions and the amount spent on the advertisement.

People can also find out the demographic profile of who has seen the advertisement, including the age range, gender and location.

Facebook will also launch an advertisement library report within the next few weeks to provide people who are less tech-savvy with information about advertisements related to social issues, elections or politics.

Ms Harbath said: “We will continue to refine and improve our policies and tools as part of our commitment to help protect the integrity of elections in Singapore and around the world.”