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retired cynic12/03/2019 8:39:40 am PST

Why it’s still impossible to know what politicians are saying on Facebook

Zuckerberg says that he won’t take down ads from politicians — even if they are deemed false by Facebook’s third-party fact-checkers — because he wants “people can see for themselves what politicians are saying.” But that is not what’s happening.

Yes, Facebook now has an ad library where it makes political ads publicly available. But on November 21, the Trump campaign had over 4700 active ads on Facebook’s platform.

This is a huge change in political discourse that is being facilitated by Facebook. With TV advertising, there are no more than a handful of ads running at any time, and they are, by necessity, broadcast to large audiences. This gives the media a chance to evaluate and call out the most egregiously false ads. Now, there are thousands of ads run simultaneously, microtargeted to slivers of the public.

There is no chance for anyone to see them all, much less evaluate them for accuracy. Even if you were able to identify errors, Facebook would take no action. Facebook also doesn’t reveal the actual audience each ad is targeted to, making it impossible to counterprogram with the facts.

There are ways Facebook could take steps to fix this problem, like restricting the number of ads that any candidate may run simultaneously. But the company has not even acknowledged that the huge quantity of paid political ads is a problem — much less express a willingness to solve it.

He also points out that Zuckerberg’s “philanthropical” organization is an LLC for profit, not a non profit!