Researchers: Gaps In Facebook’s Ad Platform Could Have Enabled “Malicious” Marketers

Facebook has made a point of saying that it will do little to fact-check or police the content of political ads on its platform. However, the company does require accounts that post political ads to identify who they are and what they represent. But according to a report in The Washington Post this week, there are massive gaps in Facebook’s ad system that could “enable a malicious advertiser to avoid accurate disclosure of their political ads.”

According to New York University’s Tandon School of University, a security audit of Facebook’s online ad archive found that more than 86,000 Facebook pages ran at least one political ad that wasn’t properly disclosed. The study also found that an additional 20,000 ads were purchased by “likely inauthentic communities.” For its part, Facebook said that this research was conducted before it strengthened its ad policies.

“Our authorization and transparency measures have meaningfully changed since this research was conducted,” Facebook spokesman Joe Osborne said in a statement. “We offer more transparency into political and issue advertising than TV, radio or any other digital ad platform.”

However, one of the study’s authors, Laura Edelson, said that Facebook still needs to do a much better job of safeguarding its ad platform. “Enforcement really needs to be stepped up,” she said.

While Facebook has taken steps to strengthen its security in recent years, it’s undeniably true that there are still flaws that it needs to address. It will never be perfect, of course, but it does need to be much better.

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