Facebook approved political ads ‘paid for’ by Cambridge Analytica despite its new ‘transparency net’ filter designed to catch out fake news
- Researchers set up sponsored content on the social platform promoting Brexit
- The adverts targeted Facebook users in London for two days before deletion
- Chairman of inquiry into fake news called the revelation ‘extremely worrying’
- But Facebook thinks its ‘Ads Library’ can show who is behind political adverts
Political advertising on Facebook is once again under fire after researchers were able to set up fake adverts on the platform.
They set up fraudulent Brexit promotional material, alleging they were funded by disgraced election consultants Cambridge Analytica.
Facebook is still reeling from its worst privacy crisis in history, which saw Cambridge Analytica use data mining to try and influence the US presidential election.
Around 87 million users are believed to have had their information shared with the Trump-affiliated firm.
This information was then used to target voters with political ads designed to play on their individual psychological makeup.
Facebook had previously argued that a new ‘transparency’ net would filter out any fake political adverts on the platform.
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Political advertising on Facebook is once again under fire after researchers were able to set up fake adverts on the platform. This image shows one of the fake adverts posed by Business Insider using materials from VoteLeave and appearing to be `paid for by Cambridge Analytica’
Facebook – which has more than two billion users worldwide – introduced its new transparency policy in October, making it compulsory for advertisers to disclose who paid for any advertisements related to political issues.
Journalists from Business Insider found they were easily able to bypass the new initiative and set up fake political adverts under the new ‘paid for by’ tag.
In an in-depth report, Shona Ghosh detailed how journalists set up fake political adverts using materials from the Vote Leave and BeLeave Brexit campaigns and supposedly ‘paid for by’ Cambridge Analytica.
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The adverts targeted Facebook users in London for two days before they were removed.
A Facebook spokesman said: ‘This ad was not created by Cambridge Analytica. It is fake, violates our policies and has been taken down.
‘We believe people on Facebook should know who is behind the political ads they’re seeing which is why we are creating the Ads Library so that you can see who is accountable for any political ad. We have tools for anyone to report suspicious activity such as this.’
The adverts, which Facebook recognises as fake and not paid for by Cambridge Analytica, still appear in the Ads Library as ‘paid for by Cambridge Analytica’.
Damian Collins, chairman of the parliamentary inquiry into disinformation and fake news, called the revelation ‘extremely worrying’ (file photo)
This latest revelation is likely to come as a blow to the company, which has come under increasing scrutiny over the spread of fake news on the platform.
Damian Collins, chairman of the parliamentary inquiry into disinformation and fake news, called the revelation ‘extremely worrying’.
He said: ‘It demonstrates that Facebook does not have the right systems and processes in place to implement their own rules and standards.
‘Transparency around political advertising is essential if public trust is to be restored in Facebook.’
The latest Facebook scandal comes just hours after Mr Collins sent his third letter to chief executive Mark Zuckerberg asking him to give evidence to Parliament about disinformation on the platform, this time as part of an ‘international grand committee’ in partnership with Canadian politicians.
The fake Cambridge Analytica is now listed as ‘inactive’ in Facebook´s new ‘Ads Library’. The social media giant believes the library will show who is accountable for any political ad
Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg has been resisting demands from British politicians to give evidence since March. Mr Collins wants the social media boss to appear in front of the international grand committee in London
On Tuesday, Vice News reported its journalists had successfully run Facebook adverts ‘paid for by’ 100 US senators, one week before America’s midterm elections.
The new transparency measures were announced on October 15 and Facebook said enforcement would start on November 7, but the same policy has been in place in the US since May.
Mr Collins continued: ‘The revelation of yet more gaping holes within their advertising system does not demonstrate to me that Facebook are doing all they can to move beyond a troubling year.
‘The ability of parliaments around the world to properly scrutinise Facebook, on areas such as these, are just one reason why Mark Zuckerberg should agree to appear in front of the international grand committee we will be convening in London on 27th November.’
The letter to Mr Zuckerberg, co-signed by Mr Collins and Bob Zimmer, chairman of the Canadian parliament’s committee on access to information, privacy and ethics, asks the multi-billionaire to respond by November 7.
WHAT IS THE CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA SCANDAL?
Communications firm Cambridge Analytica has offices in London, New York, Washington, as well as Brazil and Malaysia.
The company boasts it can ‘find your voters and move them to action’ through data-driven campaigns and a team that includes data scientists and behavioural psychologists.
‘Within the United States alone, we have played a pivotal role in winning presidential races as well as congressional and state elections,’ with data on more than 230 million American voters, Cambridge Analytica claims on its website.
The company profited from a feature that meant apps could ask for permission to access your own data as well as the data of all your Facebook friends.
The data firm suspended its chief executive, Alexander Nix (pictured), after recordings emerged of him making a series of controversial claims, including boasts that Cambridge Analytica had a pivotal role in the election of Donald Trump
This meant the company was able to mine the information of 87 million Facebook users even though just 270,000 people gave them permission to do so.
This was designed to help them create software that can predict and influence voters’ choices at the ballot box.
The data firm suspended its chief executive, Alexander Nix, after recordings emerged of him making a series of controversial claims, including boasts that Cambridge Analytica had a pivotal role in the election of Donald Trump.
This information is said to have been used to help the Brexit campaign in the UK.
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