Facebook is set to exempt several European parties, groups, and institutions from its stricter regulations for political advertising following backlash within the block, several reports suggest.
The social network giant is reportedly mulling letting them run cross-border social media campaigns in Europe despite the recently imposed limitations. The new regulations require that any individual or group should provide a physical address and a telephone number to publish political advertising or materials about hot-button issues like migration. They also insist that such advertisers should be registered in the country where they wish their commercials to be shown.
According to The Financial Times, Facebook’s head of global affairs Nick Clegg sent a letter to President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani, saying that 19 EU organisations could enjoy a break for a month in the run-up to the parliamentary election at the end of May. Clegg notified him that the company was currently “exploring whether [it] can technically build tools that would allow authorised administrators of the 19 institutional pages [it] identified to target ads to people right across the EU”, although he also revealed that it’s still not clear how this would be done.
“It will be a challenge to do this in the requested timescale and I will need to confirm whether or not it is possible with you if we agree that this is the right solution”, Clegg wrote.
The deal on the temporary exemption has not been confirmed yet, but the EU Parliament earlier told Politico that both sides had reached an agreement.
“Following a phone call between Antonio Tajani and Nick Clegg, in which Antonio Tajani asked Facebook to spare the institutions, groups and European political parties from the new rule, at least for the electoral period, Facebook has replied positively. A procedure will be foreseen for each of the three categories from April 25 to May 26”, parliamentary spokesperson Jaume Duch revealed, as cited by Politico.
The limitations recently imposed by Facebook prompted a wave of criticism from European politicians, who were reportedly counting on social media advertising to target voters across Europe. All major political parties in Europe, including potential rivals, joined forces to confront the company’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg in an open letter, insisting that the rules go against European law.
"We expect Facebook to change its rules within a matter of days to be in compliance with EU rules. We will not accept being limited to national public spheres in a common Europe", the message reads, according to Politico. The letter was signed by, among others, the leaders of the European People's Party, the Party of European Socialists, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, and the European Green Party.
Controversies like alleged Russian meddling in the US elections and spreading fake news, as well as hate messages that promote violence, have brought the social network giant under fire in recent years, forcing it to re-evaluate its ad policy. For example, Facebook introduced the same geographical limitations that are in place in Europe for the US midterm elections and the UK.