Georgian civil society, media urges Facebook to introduce mechanisms for transparency of political advertisements

  • "Ensuring an immediate introduction of Facebook’s mechanisms for transparency of political advertisement is a crucial step”, reads the statement. Photo: shutterstock., 29 Jun 2020 - 14:26, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgian civil society and media representatives have urged Facebook to introduce mechanisms for determining the transparency of political advertisements, as pre-election campaigns will soon start in the country and political interest groups and foreign actors are ‘undermining the free, equal election environment by using disinformation’.

During the 2018 presidential election in Georgia, anonymous pages used sponsored content to wage far-reaching discrediting campaigns on Facebook, with the aim of influencing voters and radicalising election processes against the background of negative campaigns. Such methods were also used last year… In December 2019 and April 2020, Facebook’s removal of accounts engaged in Coordinated Inauthentic Behaviour (CIB) in Georgia identified that the majority of these accounts were connected to the ruling party and some to opposition as well. This confirms that the attempts to manipulate public opinion on Facebook are also carried out by internal actors along with external hostile actors such as Russia”, reads the statement. 

The statement also notes that Russia continues to wage a hybrid war against Georgia using sophisticated information operations and the spread of disinformation as a weapon. Although Facebook has taken down fake information in the past, the effect of the measure has been only temporary.

Similar inauthentic pages are still being created and use more sophisticated tactics in an attempt to avoid possible future sanctions from Facebook… Disinformation and sponsored discrediting campaigns are again gaining traction ahead of the upcoming elections. With only four months remaining until Georgia’s parliamentary elections, Facebook has a chance to take a responsible role in safeguarding the information environment during elections. Ensuring an immediate introduction of Facebook’s mechanisms for transparency of political advertisement is a crucial step”, reads the statement.

Media representatives and civil society members urge the founder and the Vice-President of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg and Nick Clegg to take the following measures:

  • Launch the Political Ad Library and Political Ads API in Georgia as soon as possible, like it did ahead of elections in Ukraine and European Parliament elections in the EU member states in 2019
  • During the election period, Facebook should strengthen its efforts to identify CIB and remove from the platform accounts involved in such behaviour
  • Following the identification of CIB and the removal of pages, Facebook should notify subscribers and followers of accounts that were removed for CIB about the action taken
  • Running political ads from a foreign country should be prohibited

Read the full statement and the list of signatories here.