Family & Education

Facebook to block altering of headlines in adverts

Computer showing Facebook, Image copyright Getty Images

Facebook says it is going to make changes to prevent advertisers from altering headlines and links to other people's online stories.

It follows the removal by Facebook of a Conservative advert - after claims that it misrepresented a BBC News story.

Facebook says it wants to introduce the changes by the end of this year, and is currently testing how this might work.

The Conservative party says it is reviewing how its Facebook adverts are produced.

The social media firm took down Conservative party online adverts which had added a different headline to a BBC News story about education spending.

Image caption The now removed Tory Facebook advert, which used a BBC story but with an altered headline

The headline shown in the Conservative advert on Facebook replaced the original headline on the BBC story - and contradicted the contents of the story.

Fact-checking charity Full Fact said political parties should not "misrepresent the work of independent journalists in this way".

'Misused'

Facebook said these political adverts had "misused" the advertising platform - and they are now covered up on Facebook's advert library, with the warning they were taken down for breaking the website's rules.

The advert carried a BBC logo and headline saying "£14 billion pound cash boost for schools" - despite the story it linked to putting the figure at £7.1bn.

Image caption How the BBC story had been headlined

A spokesman for Facebook said the changes made in the Conservative adverts "were not how we want our tools to be used".

Advertisers who link to another story or website are not allowed to alter how this third-party content appears in their adverts.

Facebook said it wants to protect the original publishers of materials and strengthen "enforcement" and to "better prevent this behaviour" in the future.

Earlier this month, the firm was part of a group of organisations, including the BBC, which committed themselves to tackling "fake news" and disinformation.

'Misleading'

The advert, which started running on 2 September, followed a government announcement on new funding for schools in England.

Clicking on the advert took readers to a story on the BBC News website with the headline "Multi-billion pound cash boost for schools".

Analysis in the story challenged the claim of £14bn extra spending - setting out why £7.1bn was a more accurate figure.

In his House of Commons speech announcing plans for school budgets in the spending review, the Chancellor Sajid Javid also specified that the increase would be £7.1bn.

Image copyright Facebook
Image caption The Conservative advert removed by Facebook for a "misuse" of its advertising rules

Fact checkers for Full Fact had highlighted concerns about the altered headline - which had almost doubled the level of increase to £14bn, saying that it could be "misleading, particularly for readers who don't click through to the article".

A statement from the Conservative Party said: "It was not our intention to misrepresent by using this headline copy with the news link, where the BBC's £7bn figure is clearly displayed, but we are reviewing how our advert headlines match accompanying links."

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