The New York Times reported this week that fake ads on Facebook may be having an impact on a congressional primary race in California.
Congressional candidate Regina Bateson was on the receiving end of an ad campaign that aimed to accuse her of deceptively working to kill the campaign of one of her rivals. “It was a perfectly targeted negative campaign ad, but the average person had no idea who had really written it or what their motivations were,” Bateson said. She is running in California’s Fourth Congressional District in an attempt to boot five-term representative Republican Tom McClintock.
Bateson quickly pointed out that the ad ran on Facebook without disclosures that it was a political ad and not merely an article. It was posted by a Facebook page called the Sierra Nevada Revolution, a progressive group which had published attacks on Bateson and her campaign in the past.
The New York Times report highlighted that Facebook is facing issues with regards to its transparency on political advertisements on their platform. The administrator of the Sierra Nevada Revolution page told the Times that he has been able to place several ads on the platform that appear to users without disclosures.
In a statement, Rod Leathern, Facebook’s director of product management, told the Times that he and his team is looking into methods of ensuring that the political advertisements on Facebook feature proper disclosures about their political nature. He suggested that the system can be abused when more than one person manages a Facebook page, such as Sierra Nevada Revolution. “We are looking into it because it’s against our policies to share passwords or give someone else access to a person’s Facebook account,” Leathern said, “We use signals such as two-factor authentication to detect and prevent this type of abuse, but steps like these won’t stop every attempt to game the system.”
Sierra Nevada Revolution was reported to the Federal Election Commission over their failure to register as a political group. That complaint can be read here.