Facebook Ads and Social Issues: How charities and nonprofits can get authorized to run political and social issue ads

Facebook Ads about social issues, elections or politics

Facebook has recently made changes to how charities, nonprofits and political organisations can run ads on Facebook, in order to increase ad transparency and as part of election integrity.

The new Facebook Ads rules means that advertisers running ads about social issues, elections or politics may be required to complete the ad authorisation process.

As Facebook said in the initial announcement:

“People should know who is trying to influence their vote and advertisers shouldn’t be able to  cover up who is paying for ads. That’s why over the past few years, we’ve made important changes to help ensure more transparency and authenticity in ads about social issues, elections or politics.”

Requirements vary by country, but if Facebook needs you to register to run these types of ads, you’ll now be requited to complete the authorisation process.

As a result of this change, there’s been a lot of discussion about Facebook advertising in the press and online lately.

The change has been particularly frustrating for organisations with teams based in North America, Europe or elsewhere, but are looking to advertise in locations where their team doesn’t have a presence, or if their Facebook ad campaigns are being flagged and disapproved due to them being loosely related to social issues or politics.

Here’s a guide for how to best navigate the new rules around social issues and political advertising on Facebook.

We’ll update this guide as we learn more about the ins and outs of getting authorised to run politically and socially sensitive ads on Facebook and Instagram.

Facebook Authorization for Political and Social Issue Ads.png
A preview of the Facebook Authorization process for Political and Social Issue Ads

How ads about social issues, elections or politics have changed on Facebook and Instagram

Ads about social issues, elections or politics that appear on Facebook or Instagram now need to include a disclaimer provided by advertisers that shows the name of the person or entity that paid for the ad.

This normally shows up as a “Paid for by” disclaimer with info about the individual or organisation paying for the ad.

Ads about social issues, elections or politics now will also be stored in the Facebook Ad Library for a period of up to seven years (!).

Here’s an idea of how the new system looks, with this example from Friends of the Earth showing an Instagram ad with the disclaimer and a link to how the data appears in the Ads Library:

Facebook Ads and Social Issues: How charities and nonprofits can get authorized to run political and social issue ads 1

What counts as a “social issue” on Facebook?

Facebook might think you are running ads if they are seen as “National legislative issues of public importance”.

This guidance is pretty unclear, but here is a list of social and political issues that Facebook has published that you can refer to:

  • abortion
  • budget
  • civil rights
  • crime
  • economy
  • education
  • energy
  • environment
  • foreign policy
  • government reform
  • guns
  • health
  • immigration
  • infrastructure
  • military
  • poverty
  • social security
  • taxes
  • terrorism
  • values

How ads about social issues, elections or politics are reviewed by Facebook

All ads are reviewed before they’re shown on Facebook through a combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and human review.

Facebook will check an ad’s images, text and positioning as well as the content on an ad’s landing page against their Community Standards and Advertising Policies.

In certain cases, an ad that’s already running can be flagged by AI or reported by our community, which means your ad may be stopped even if it’s been running for a few days or weeks.

If this happens, the ad may be reviewed again, and if it’s found to be in breach of Facebook’s policies, they’ll stop running the ad.

As part of these reviews, Facebook will check an ad’s content to see if the ad falls within the scope of their ads about social issues, elections or politics policy.

Examples of social issues, elections or politics Facebook Ads

Facebook has said it doesn’t mean a mere mention of those topics will be flagged, but they could be if a post “involves discussion, debate or advocacy of a topic.’

The policy pertains to ads with “content that takes a position on or advocates for or against social issues.”

As an example of what kind of ads need to be disclosed, Facebook have said that ads that will require authorisations and disclaimers include ads with content that:

  • Is made by, on behalf of or about a candidate for public office, a political party or advocates for the outcome of an election to public office
  • Is about any election, referendum or ballot initiative, including “get out the vote” or election information campaigns
  • Is about social issues in any place where the ad is being run
  • Is regulated as political advertising.

If your ad campaigns fits any of the above descriptions, you’ll need to complete the authorisation process required by Facebook.

How to get authorised to run social issue or political ads on Facebook and instagram

If you plan to run ads about social issues, elections or politics, you’ll need to go through Facebook ad authorisation process.

Your identification documents should be reviewed by Facebook’s team within 48 hours and disclaimer reviews are typically completed within 24 hours. Bear in mind that the time to review ads about elections or politics can be up to 72 hours.

Before you begin the ad authorisation process, you’ll need the following:

  • You’ll need to be the Page admin on the Page on which you’re running the ads. If you’re not a Page admin, you should ask an admin on the Page to add you as an admin or share this content with the Page admin and have them complete the ad authorisation process. Only the Page admin can complete the entire ad authorisation process. Learn more about roles and permissions for running ads about social issues, elections or politics.
  • To complete the identity confirmation process, you must have two-factor authentication enabled on your account. You can set it up through your settings.
  • Facebook will need to make sure that you’re based in country you’re looking to run ads in. They’ll do this by checking your information and activity on Facebook, including the country listed on your profile, and asking for a postal address.
  • You’ll need to have the following materials and information available to confirm your identity:*
    • A passport, driving licence or residence permit.
    • A residential postal address in the country you want to be registered to.

Facebook use your ID to help confirm your identity and to help detect and prevent risks such as impersonation or ID theft.

Are there ways to get around the Facebook Ads authorisation process?

VICE have shown how easy it was to manipulate the system by placing ads on behalf of US Vice President Mike Pence, which Facebook approved. 

Business Insider also ran fake ads pretending to be Cambridge Analytica, which Facebook also approved.

However, we would recommend sticking to the official authorisation process to make sure you can run your ads.

I’m stuck or my question hasn’t been answered – can you help?

Working out how to get authorized to run political and social issue ads on Facebook and Instagram is getting increasingly complicated.

Montfort have helped several clients with the Facebook ads authorisation process, so if you need support or have another question that’s not been answered here, then please say hello to us.

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