After announcing new rules around the use of memes by political candidates last week, Facebook has now sought to add an extra level of transparency to such usage by providing a real-time list of political branded content on Facebook and Instagram, which anybody can view in CrowdTangle at any time.
Facebook was forced to take action on the use of memes after US Democratic Presidential hopeful Michael Bloomberg partnered with a group called ‘Meme 2020’ in order to commission the creation of memes by various Instagram influencers to help boost his messaging.
But while Facebook did implement new rules around the usage of memes by candidates, it also refused to add these influencer posts into its Ad Library, where all other political candidate ads are listed. Why Facebook has opted not to also include political memes is unclear, but depending on how much they’re used, that could leave a significant gap in Facebook’s transparency tools, limiting the capacity to scrutinize the tactics used by each candidate.
Which is where this new listing comes in. Announced by Facebook’s Director of Product Rob Leathern, the new columns for political branded content will enable anyone to see, at any time, what types of posts each candidate is using to connect on Instagram and Facebook.
But the issue itself does highlight yet another complication for the platforms in facilitating transparency.
A key challenge here is in tracking down paid political sponsorships by influencers, and ensuring that they stay within the newly implemented rules. Some people may simply be posting their personal support of a candidate, while others are paid. So how do you identify which is which, if they don’t?
The potential gap underlines the need for more uniform regulations around political ad content and disclosure, and the need for penalties for those that break the rules, in order to discourage misleading endorsements and messaging.
Yet, at the same time, most of the Bloomberg memes, you’d think, have been pretty ineffective thus far.
I mean, no disrespect to the creators, but I’m not sure this type of content is going to swing the vote in any significant way.
But then again, maybe I’m missing the point – maybe, simply be engaging popular creators, and getting more exposure to their fans, the Bloomberg campaign is making progress, and solidifying a level of support.
Either way, if you want to see exactly how they’re looking to do this, you now can via this CrowdTangle dashboard.