Facebook tightens ad rules in countries going to polls, but undecided on Israel
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Facebook tightens ad rules in countries going to polls, but undecided on Israel

Company reportedly says it is limiting political advertising, increasing transparency internationally — but has not made a decision regarding upcoming Israeli vote

Media and guests mingle at a tour of Facebook's new 130,000-square-foot offices in Cambridge, Massachusetts, January 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Media and guests mingle at a tour of Facebook's new 130,000-square-foot offices in Cambridge, Massachusetts, January 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Facebook said it would work to rein in interference in elections in several countries in 2019, but has not yet made a decision regarding Israel, the Reuters news agency reported Wednesday.

The company said it would tighten regulations on political advertising and provide tools to regulators in India, Nigeria, Ukraine and the European Union, but has not made any policy decisions regarding upcoming elections in Israel, Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

In Nigeria and Ukraine, only domestic advertisers will be able to place campaign advertisements on the social network.

In India, the company said it would archive ads in a searchable database in an effort to increase transparency, and would verify the identities of people buying political ads, Reuters reported.

Facebook is said to have introduced the various measures to each country based on local regulations and circumstances, and aims to introduce tools for advertisers worldwide later this year.

Facebook has come under intense scrutiny since the 2016 US presidential election, when the platform was a conduit for a large amount of election meddling traced to Russia.

Last week, the head of the Shin Bet security services warned that a foreign state “intends to intervene” through cyberattacks in Israel’s national elections in April. Israel’s censor barred from publication much of what Nadav Argaman said, including the country he said aimed to influence the elections.

Israelis line up to cast their ballots at a voting station on the morning of the municipal elections on October 30, 2018, in the northern Israeli city of Tzfat. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Argaman said he was “100% [certain] that [redacted foreign state] will intervene in the upcoming elections, and I know what I’m talking about, I just don’t know in whose favor.”

Days later, the Likud party said on Tuesday that it would block proposed measures to prevent such voter manipulation and similar attempts by Israeli internet operatives.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel leads the world in cyber-defense and was well-prepared to thwart any attempted election intervention.

Israeli cybersecurity experts said the country is vulnerable, however, with outdated and unenforced regulation, leaked personal data and widespread abuse of social media.

Israel’s Central Elections Committee said last week that it was devising a detailed plan of action to thwart attempts by foreign countries to meddle in the April 9 elections and that Israeli officials had met with senior representatives from Facebook.

Ahead of municipal elections in October, Israel’s National Cyber Directorate said thousands of fake Facebook profile accounts created to spread false information about Israeli political candidates had been taken offline at the agency’s request, in the possible beginnings of a major attempt to influence Israeli voters.

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