Facebook Under Fire For “Transparency” Efforts Around Political Ads

A magnifying glass has been put up to Facebook’s political advertising practices this week because of the U.S. midterm elections—and what experts have discovered isn’t good for the company. Last week, several news outlets reported that they were able to buy political ads under any name they wanted, including ISIS and Mike Pence. And now, an analysis featured in TechCrunch has revealed that Facebook basically has no way to make sure fake accounts stay off the platform once they’re detected.

According to the research, conducted by Jonathan Albright of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, there are an “alarming number” of influential Facebook ad campaigns operated by accounts outside the U.S. He also noted that Facebook has no real system in place to monitor pages once they pass an initial verification check. This leaves the entire system of buying and placing ads wide open for abuse.

“After finding these huge discrepancies, I found it difficult to trust any of Facebook’s reporting tools or historical Page information,” Albright wrote in his report. “I knew that the information reported in the follow-ups was likely to be inaccurate. In other words, Facebook’s political ad transparency tools—and I mean all of them—offer no real basis for evaluation.”

Facebook has repeatedly pledged to be more transparent with users about who is behind the advertising on its platform, but if this report is any indication, all that talk may be just that.