Loophole in Facebook’s ad ecosystem allows political content look like regular content

Political ads on Facebook are meant to be marked with a disclaimer that says who paid for the ad, as well as be archived into the platform’s ad library, where users are able to see more information about how an ad was targeted. It’s important to note that the ‘who paid for the ad’ requirement is loose, meaning that a generic organisation name could be used, instead of a name that ties the ad to an interest group, for example. These modest requirements of ads transparency came in the wake of numerous scandals involving Facebook’s exploitative data practices.

However there’s a problem – Mother Jones has reported that there is a “gaping loophole in this system” however, and says that “If a user shares a political ad, the disclaimer disappears for anyone who sees the shared ad, as does the ability to click through it to the ad library.” What this means is that when a political ad is shared by a user, part of the disclaimer goes away. People tend to trust content shared by friends or family, and political actors appearing to be able to build shadowy ads that are designed to go viral is concerning.

https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2019/05/the-facebook-loophole-that-makes-political-ads-look-like-regular-content/

Pema Levy

17 May 2019

Mother Jones