Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Facebook’s Political Ad Transparency Efforts Are Woefully Poor

William Turton, Vice:

One of Facebook’s major efforts to add transparency to political advertisements is a required “Paid for by” disclosure at the top of each ad supposedly telling users who is paying for political ads that show up in their news feeds.

But on the eve of the 2018 midterm elections, a VICE News investigation found the “Paid for by” feature is easily manipulated and appears to allow anyone to lie about who is paying for a political ad, or to pose as someone paying for the ad.

To test it, VICE News applied to buy fake ads on behalf of all 100 sitting U.S. senators, including ads “Paid for by” by Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer. Facebook’s approvals were bipartisan: All 100 sailed through the system, indicating that just about anyone can buy an ad identified as “Paid for by” by a major U.S. politician.

Allen Tan:

Feature built to curb abuse relies on… people and organizations using it in good faith.

If you can’t trust organizations trying to manipulate elections by preying on individuals’ trust in apparently honest discourse at this tense time in the world, who can you trust?