While India is preparing for its general elections, the whole world is still recovering from Cambridge Analytica — not to mention being rocked by scandals involving other tech giants.
Bearing in mind that it wasn’t too long ago that the Indian government was considering blocking social media apps all together to hedge against unrest for the duration of the elections, Google and Facebook are taking great pains to ensure everything is above board. The search giant, Google, just announced that it will be launching its own “Advertising Transparency Report” and a “Political Ads Library” in India, both of which will aim to provide comprehensive information about who is purchasing election ads on Google’s platforms and how much money is being spent.
“In 2019, over 850 million Indians are expected to cast their vote to elect the country’s next government,” said Chetan Krishnaswamy, director of public policy at Google India, according to The Mumbai Mirror. “We’re thinking hard about elections and how we continue to support democratic processes in India and around the world.”
Facebook made a similar announcement in a blog in December, in which it announced it would be setting up an “online search ad library” and made it mandatory for advertisers to disclose their identity and location for verification.
According to The Economic Times, the blog stated: “By authorizing advertisers and bringing more transparency to ads, we can better defend against foreign interference in India’s elections.”
Even Twitter has jumped on the “online library” bandwagon with its “Ads Transparency Centre” announced on January 10, which is yet to roll out.
According to a Huffington Post report, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said: “Twitter is heavily used by the influencers and the politicians and the government in India, so we’re very fortunate in that degree. And we want to make sure that we are doing what we can to make sure that we maintain the integrity of the conversation around the election.”
Putting the right checks in place
It’s not just Facebook looking for verification; Google recently updated its election ads policy too, now stipulating that advertisers provide a “pre-certificate” issued by the Election Commission of India (ECI) for each political ad that they plan on running.
Advertisers will also have to verify their identity to be able to run ads at all. In order to keep voters in the loop, Google’s also going to tailor its algorithm so that electoral information from the Election Commission of India (ECI) and other “authoritative sources” can easily be discovered on Google Search.
It’s important to remember that Google Ads are everywhere, not just when you’re on Google’s Search Engine. That includes YouTube and whichever sites have AdSense and AdWords on their portal.
Facebook — and its subsidiary, Instagram — will be doing its part by running disclaimers on all commercial content related to the elections on its platform.
Any information about how much is spent, the range of impressions, and the demographics of who actually viewed the advertisement will be publicly available through its library.
Facebook’s verification process has already gone live, but Google will only be accepting requests from February 14, 2019.