In the years after the Cambridge Analytica scandal discovered how easy Facebook’s political advertisements could be armed with bad actors abroad, says the social network made some major alterations that would, in a perfect world, prevent such a scandal from happening again. He showed up a growing library of the ads that political parties posted on their platform, she set up a new one authorization process for anyone who wants to run political ads in the U.S. and even allow users give up to see some of these ads if they choose.
However, these tools mostly rely on advertisers to be honest in revealing their political connections – andby that people are not known be honest. Facebook knows this, which is why it also uses a (mostly automated) review process to sniff out political ads that may be trying to circumvent these rules.
Since these systems, again, are mostly automated, things are going as you would expect: Stories describing political groups have come out open border attempts to suppress advertising, and ordinary mothersi-pop shops whose ads were slapped political etiquette.
Now a joint study among researchers from New York University and KU Leuven in Belgium suggests that this problem could be worse than we thought. The team researched 189,000 political ads that ran on Facebook between July 2020 and February this year and found that Facebook missed the target in an incredible 83% (!) Of the time: 21% were regular ads for products that the platform mistakenly identified as politically, and the remaining 62% are direct political advertisements that Facebook just … missed.
If you are familiar with Facebook less than stellar reputation when it comes to moderating content written in non-English languages, you won’t be surprised to hear that the lion’s share of these failures came from abroad.
In Malaysia, for example, researchers found almost half of the political ads they collected — 45%—They are not marked, despite the fact that they were obviously run by political advertisers or pages. Pages from Macedonia, Argentina and Turkey, meanwhile, accounted for about a quarter their political advertisements fly under the radar of Facebook. The U.S., meanwhile, had a slightly opposite problem: about 55% of the political ads Facebook tagged were not political at all; examples compiled about researchers site includes advertisements for products such as the Ford pickup and baby cradle that have been labeled “political”.
Of course there are some big failures in the US, also. The follow-up that both teams did coincided with Facebook’s temporary ban on political announcements after last year’s presidential election. The researchers found more than 70,000 political ads that raged on the platform during this period, by sites that openly displayed nothing but political ads before the ban began – the only thing that changed was that they were no longer tagged. And Facebook just didn’t notice.
We have contacted Facebook regarding the study and will update here when we receive a response.
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