https://www.accessnow.org:443/open-letter-to-facebook-regarding-the-upcoming-tunisian-elections-of-2019/

Open letter to Facebook on the upcoming Tunisian elections of 2019

Arabic and French versions are available in PDF format.

August 30, 2019
Tunis, Tunisia

Dear Facebook,

We, Access Now, along with the signatories below, write to you asking to implement effective measures for transparency and accountability towards your users in the context of the upcoming Tunisian elections. Access Now is an international organisation that works to defend and extend digital rights of users at risk globally. Through representation in ten countries around the world, including in Tunisia, Access Now provides thought leadership and policy recommendations to the public and private sectors to ensure the Internet’s continued openness and the protection of fundamental rights.

Tunisia is one of the few democracies in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Set for September 15, the upcoming presidential elections will lay a crucial precedent for all the MENA countries aspiring to democratic governance. Tunisia will also host legislative elections on October 6. In light of this, ensuring that political candidates are transparent about their campaign expenditures is necessary. Transparency must also encompass social media campaigns as candidates are actively engaging with their constituents through Facebook as 57.9% of Tunisians are users [1] (this percentage is one of the highest in the area with Morocco at 42.6% [2] and Algeria at 46.2% [3]). Like with other elections around the world [4], Facebook content, specifically sponsored content and advertisements, could have an impact on the outcome of the Tunisian elections.

Facebook has pledged to uphold transparency and accountability towards its users. [5] Facebook’s response to Russian interference in the United States presidential election of 2016 [6] and the recent compliance with Canadian regulations under Bill C-76 [7] confirm this commitment. As such, Access Now and 14 Tunisian civil society organizations ask that similar efforts be put in place in Tunisia, and that Facebook’s commitment to transparency is extended worldwide. Specifically, we ask that Facebook implements the following measures by September 10, 2019, to allow voters to understand how political actors are using Facebook to influence election outcomes:

  • Allow public access to amounts spent on campaign ads, and in which currency
  • Allow public access to the number of ads sponsored, and the demographics of the audience targeted (gender, age, location, and any other targeting criteria used)
  • Allow public access to the location and identity of the sponsor of content
  • Clearly distinguish political and social advertisements from other types of content
  • Allow public access to metrics regarding political and social campaign ads (the number of people who saw each ad, the number of people who clicked on each ad, the amount spent on each ad).
  • Enforcing the 4-step ad authorization process on political advertisers (confirmation of identity, linking ad accounts, managing disclaimers, authorizing Instagram account).

We urge Facebook to implement the aforementioned steps to positively confirm its commitment towards transparency, grow its community of users in the MENA region, and hold Tunisian political candidates accountable — leading to a more democratic election in Tunisia. 


Sincerely, 

  1. Ligue Tunisienne des Droits de l’Homme (LTDH)
  2. Access Now
  3. Al Bawsala
  4. Democratic Transition & Human Rights Support (DAAM)
  5. Forum Tunisien pour les Droits Économiques et Sociaux (FTDES)
  6. Réseau Civils pour le Développement et les Droits de l’Homme
  7. Syndicat National des Journalistes Tunisiens (SNJT)
  8. Association Centre Citoyenneté
  9. Association Yakadha pour la démocratie et l’état civique
  10. Mawjoudin
  11. ATIDE
  12. Jamaity
  13. Mouja association
  14. Chouf
  15. Association Tunisienne de Lutte Contre les MST et le SIDA – Section Tunis

[1] NapoleonCat, Social Media Demographics, Tunisia, June 2019, https://napoleoncat.com/stats/facebook-users-in-tunisia/2019/06.
[2] NapoleonCat, Social Media Demographics, Morocco, June 2019 https://napoleoncat.com/stats/facebook-users-in-morocco/2019/06.
[3] NapoleonCat, Social Media Demographics, Algeria, June 2019, https://napoleoncat.com/stats/facebook-users-in-algeria/2019/06.
[4] MacIntyre, Darragh, Facebook – the secret election weapon, May 8, 2017, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-39830727.
[5] Zuckerberg, Mark, Preparing for Elections, September 13, 2018, https://www.facebook.com/notes/mark-zuckerberg/preparing-for-elections/10156300047606634/.
[6] Frenkel, Sheera  and Isaac, Mike, Facebook ‘Better Prepared’ to Fight Election Interference, Mark Zuckerberg Says, New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/13/technology/facebook-elections-mark-zuckerberg.html. 
[7] Rocha, Roberto, What 35,000 political ads on Facebook reveal about Canada’s election-year message battle, CBC News, August 21, 2019, https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/facebook-political-ads-canadian-federal-election-1.5246710.

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