This is Vladimir Putin and I approve this message.

We posed as 100 senators to run ads on Facebook. Facebook approved all of them.

One of Facebook's major efforts to add transparency to political advertisements is a required "Paid for by" disclosure at the top of each ad supposedly telling users who is paying for political ads that show up in their news feeds. [...]

VICE News applied to buy fake ads on behalf of all 100 sitting U.S. senators, including ads "Paid for by" by Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer. Facebook's approvals were bipartisan: All 100 sailed through the system, indicating that just about anyone can buy an ad identified as "Paid for by" by a major U.S. politician.

What's more, all of these approvals were granted to be shared from pages for fake political groups such as "Cookies for Political Transparency" and "Ninja Turtles PAC." [...]

There was one "Paid for" disclosure that Facebook didn't approve in our latest test. They denied, just a couple minutes after we submitted it: Mark Zuckerberg.

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2 Responses:

  1. bq Mackintosh says:

    I'm definitely no fan of Facebook. That said, this article is written in an disingenuous way, and that bugs me. Basically, they reach the same conclusion I do (namely, Facebook cares about the health of democracy until it dents their business model) but the form of the argument they make here is…not great.

    In my reading of the article, a reasonable reader would conclude that VICE purchased ads in the name of U.S. senators, and thereby VICE demonstrated "that just about anyone can buy an ad identified as 'Paid for by' a major U.S. politician."

    But this isn't the case. VICE doesn't say it outright, but they never actually purchased the ads — which is what triggers the actual authenticity review. They just filled out the initial application to be able to purchase such ads. Buried in the 14th graph they point out that before you purchase the ads you have to submit a valid photo ID and last four of your social — something they never had to do.

    So they didn't actually test against Facebook's defenses against fraud here. They just completed the paperwork before the defenses. You could argue that Facebooks defenses against fraud are crap, but that's not what VICE tested against.

    It's a little bit like using a web form to make an appointment with a municipal permitting agency and using the name the name Ima Hacker, and then writing an article that says that this indicates that you can get an actual building permit under a false name.

  2. dw says:

    I'm really happy to see you're still active online. I'm just some guy, not old, but also not young. I'm sorry that English is not my native language, so you know I live far away from you. I know you from the documentary "Code Rush", and you're really cool. Now I use Linux and some other open source software, and I'm enjoying it.

    Today's world is really different from many years ago. Not just technology changes our lives so much, but how people and corporations use it. Technology is neutral, but how to use it is not neutral. It depends how people see the world, and what people value more. Freedom? Money? Power?

    I have bad feeling that giant corporations with cutting-edge technology become more and more like big brothers, so does governments around the world. Ordinary people's freedom and privacy are in danger.

    Anyway, I'll follow your blog, and wish you happy.

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