'Support to Electoral Processes and Democracy - STEP Democracy'

Upcoming Myanmar elections spotlights Facebook advertising

12 May, 2020

Towards more Transparency: Facebook shares with Bago Elections Sub-Commission its latest Political Ad Transparency Tools.

Social media has become an inevitable part of our lives. It helps us connect with people; our friends and family as well as politicians and voters. It keeps us informed in most of the time but it can also misinform us. Myanmar is no different. There are some 22 million active Facebook users in Myanmar. This makes Facebook the most used application in the country. Therefore, using social media in general and Facebook in particular by political and government actors to reach out to citizens and provide them with timely access to information is no longer a luxury, but a necessity, especially in the time of COVID-19. Understanding how to effectively use social media is key to maximize its potential and minimize its downside. Towards this end, one of the EU-funded STEP Democracy’s international partner organizations, DIPD teamed up with Facebook to facilitate an online workshop with the Bago Sub-Commission.

The workshop aimed at highlighting the various ways elections management bodies (EMBs) can use Facebook to communicate with voters. Evidence shows that social media platforms can help voters become more politically active, and with 22 million Myanmar active Facebook users, almost 100% of them using it on their mobile devices, this has great potential. The participants were also very interested in learning more about enhanced online safety and security measures and tools to track and counter hate speech, misinformation and disinformation.

Over the last few years, Facebook ads have been increasingly used by politicians as part of their electoral campaigns. The policy issues surrounding online ads in terms of transparency and disclosure are debated worldwide as each country decides differently on how to account for the costs of political ads on social media. As the 2020 General Elections is approaching, this issue emerges as a priority.  In response, Facebook, during the workshop, described its very own Ad Transparency tool “Facebook Ad Library” that any EMB can use to track data on active and inactive ads on Facebook and Instagram about elections and politics. The Ad Library is a searchable database that is accessible to anyone with or without Facebook or Instagram account.

“Providing timely access to information is a guarantee for transparent, free and fair electoral process, which is our ultimate goal”, the Chairperson of the Bago Elections Sub-Commissions said. He added “I believe, therefore, that the knowledge we’ve gained from today’s online session will make us more prepared for the election by expanding our outreach to voters and stakeholders using social media.”

The European Union (EU) funded project ‘Support to Electoral Processes and Democracy – STEP Democracy’ – supports inclusive, peaceful and credible electoral processes and enhances the capacity of national stakeholders to strengthen Myanmar’s democratic transition.