Two Senators Make Up a Group & Buy a Facebook Ad

Even as social media companies explained in Congressional hearings how they are developing ways to identify fraudulent and spurious political advertisements, two United States Senators conducted an experiment, creating a group, developing an ad, paying Facebook $20 each, and targeting groups of people who they hoped would view it. The two senators, Mark Warner of Virginia and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota wondered whether they could get people to notice their advertisement, and lots did. The ad also included a disclaimer.

They explain what they did in the video below, which appeared on ABC.

 

In the comments section some individuals spent time bashing the two senators, noting they made up something that wasn’t true. What did not have much to do with their jobs as senators, some commenters wondered?

However, the two senators clearly aimed to made a point about the relative ease of creating and uploading fraudulent political content, and they demonstrated that the current steps that social media companies are taking to identify false political ads is still not enough.

Two Pithy Quotes on Social Media & Democracy

How can worldwide social media companies ensure that their digital tools are not used to promote chaos?

Social media and the digital tools that we use every day have transported us into a strange new era. As we use these tools to work and play we tacitly  allow them to collect incredible amounts of our personal information — content that documents our lives, likes, loves, and dislikes —  and we become sitting ducks for sham news and fraudulent information. Those who possess our information, good guys or bad, can use impersonal algorithms to assess and use our data.  Read my post about using Duck, Duck Go.

Fast Company’ article, Alphabet’s Eric Schmidt On Fake News, Russia, And Information Warfare describes how Google and social media companies were caught off guard by the manipulation of their systems and the prevalence of divisive news. The October 29, 2017, article by Austin Carr contains two interesting comments by titans of digital industry, though neither of them testified at the Capitol Hill hearings.    Continue reading