Con artists can still get the better of Facebook when it comes to getting political ads to appear on the social media giant, according to one website’s recent experiment.
Vice News decided to test Facebook’s ability to weed out bogus ads from real ones by planting a few bogus ones itself, and reported on its site that it succeeded.
The Vice News escapade came at the same time CNN was trying to unravel who was behind a page attacking Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in his effort for re-election. As a result, CNN wrote that Facebook’s results have not lived up to the hype.
“Both CNN Business’ findings regarding the page and other recent reporting raise questions about whether Facebook’s political ads policy actually informs users the way it’s supposed to — and whether Facebook is doing enough to vet the pages running those ads,” CNN wrote.
Facebook announced earlier this year that it was making political advertising “more transparent.” It announced on its website that every political ad will say who paid for it.
But that does not mean that Facebook viewers know who that ad buyer is. As Vice explained, all it took was an ID and proof of residence to submit the ads.
That meant Facebook knew who was buying them. Facebook users? Not so much.
Vice said it successfully placed ads saying they were paid for by Vice President Mike Pence, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez and the Islamic State. It noted, however, that it never actually ran the ad allegedly paid for by Pence.
Vice also said that it tried to slip an ad paid for by Hillary Clinton through Facebook, but that one was rejected.
Although foreign entities cannot run ads for American elections, Vice noted that it was able to run the same content that was used in 2016 by suspected Russian agents.
Facebook was not amused with Vice’s antics.
“Inaccurate disclaimers have no place on Facebook and these ads are no longer running,” said Rob Leathern, who leads Business Integrity product management team at Facebook.
“Our goal is to increase transparency on Facebook and prevent foreign interference elections, which is why we have implemented the authorization process and released the Ad Archive. Enforcement isn’t perfect — and we won’t stop all people trying to game the system — but we have made it much harder and we will continue to improve,” he said.
CNN found that the ads attacking Cruz appeared on a page called “Crush Cruz,” but all anyone looking at them knew was that they were paid for by “Crush Cruz,” which remained anonymous.
When Facebook found out the page was operating in violation of its rules, it pulled the plug, CNN reported.
Facebook only recently released its list of top political ad buyers, Ad Age noted. After its own spending of about $12 million, the biggest ad buyer was Beto O’Rourke, the Democrat trying to wrest the Texas U.S. Senate seat from Cruz. O’Rourke spent $5.3 million on ads since May, Facebook reported.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.