Snapchat will fact-check all political ads, something Facebook won’t do

Snapchat has become the latest US social media giant to update its policy on political ads. Snap Inc.’s CEO and founder, Evan Spiegel, announced on Monday that Snapchat will fact-check all ads as part of a pre-publication review process.
A Snapchat custom background
Snap Inc. has announced a policy update to tackle political disinformation on its platform. Photo: via Flickr

With yesterday’s announcement, Snapchat followed in the footsteps of Facebook and Twitter, both of which recently announced their own political ad-related policy updates.

In the wake of the 2016 presidential election and Brexit referendum we’ve gained a much deeper understanding of the threat posed by political interference on social media.

Now that this trio of social media giants have each unveiled their own solution to the issue of paid political ads and political disinformation, it’s clear they’ve each taken very different paths.

Facebook’s approach

As reported by The Next Web, Facebook was the first of the three to unveil its political ad-related policy update. On 21 October Facebook announced a policy change which it said would help “protect the democratic process”.

Facebook is the social media platform most commonly used in political disinformation campaigns, so this change couldn’t come soon enough.

Under its new revised political ad policy Facebook says it will implement a number of changes on both Facebook and Instagram.

Last year Facebook announced policy changes which require users posting political ads to verify details about their identity and organisation.

The Facebook logo on a smartphone
Facebook will still allow political ads on its platform. Photo: via Flickr

Posts published by state media organisations are now clearly labelled. Additionally, Facebook will now use third-party fact-checkers to verify the contents of political ads. A clear warning now appears on any post that has been flagged as containing false information.

But many commentators say Facebook is still not doing enough given the enormous amount of influence it has.

Twitter’s approach

While Facebook is still very much allowing advertisers to pay to post political ads, Twitter has taken the opposite approach.

On 20 October, Twitter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, announced that Twitter will be banning political ads on its platform.

More specifically, the ban will apply to paid political ads. Users will still be free to post political content, but they won’t be able to pay to have it promoted to others.

While this should go a long way towards removing targeted fake news on Twitter, there do appear to be a few potential loopholes which could be exploited.

Twitter HQ
Twitter has banned paid political ads on its platform. Photo: Mike Davis via Flickr

Twitter has included a “cause-based” exemption, which means that ads which “educate, raise awareness, and/or call for people to take action in connection with civic engagement, economic growth, environmental stewardship, or social equity causes,” will be allowed.

While these ads can’t be targeted very specifically, there is still plenty of room for the definition to be exploited.

Snapchat’s approach

Snapchat’s approach towards political ads lies somewhere in between Facebook and Twitter.

While Evan Spiegel has made it clear that political ads will still be allowed on Snapchat, he says they will be fact-checked to ensure they do not spread false information.

Snapchat has confirmed with Abundary that the review process will be internal.

Snap Inc. appears to have taken the middle ground between Facebook and Twitter to encourage young voters to stay politically engaged.

“Because we reach so many young people and first-time voters we want them to be able to engage with the political conversation, but we don’t allow things like misinformation to appear in that advertising,” Spiegel said in an interview with CNBC.

This action is especially important in the run up to the 2020 US presidential election.

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