Midterm Elections -- What To Look for in Facebook Ads

In a previous post, we looked at what Facebook has learned from the 2016 election.   Facebook is at least stating that they will validate by address the validity of the ad buyer.   The problem that remains however is the ability to target a very specific group of users while not allowing those not targeted to report if it is misleading or un-truthful.

In order to think about political ads, first we should review what the FEC requires political advertising.  Here is primer on the requirements.  In a nutshell, it comes down to what types of communication require a disclaimer.   What's required in a disclaimer-some statement if it is authorized by and paid for by the campaign or some third party.   

While Facebook does have detailed policies about their targeted ad features it says nothing about a disclaimer.  Late last year Facebook, Twitter, and Google all  offered to disclose ad buys when they testified before Congress, but nothing has changed yet.  
So what can you do to help find ads that might not be truthful when Facebook's ad targeting does not show them to you?   Here is an interesting project from ProPublica  They have developed browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox  that will collect political ads when you log into Facebook and present political ads that were not targeted at you.   Propublica also says this extension will also "collect that targeting information provided by Facebook, which may help illuminate what viewership the ads are trying to reach."   This should identify if an ad is violating Facebook's targeted ad policy which Facebook reserves the right to revoke at anytime.

Let us know if you try this browser extension.    We here at OneHealineADay.com already have it.

Midterm Elections - Are you ready for Social Media?

In a recent post, we looked at what if any changes have been made at Facebook since the 2016 election.  Frankly, we are skeptical, and this cartoon sums up our general feeling.

That said, aside from anything Facebook or the Russians might be doing for the midterm elections, it's more important what each of us might do differently.    So, instead of our usual two column format, today we provide a set of simple steps that each of us can do (and encourage others to do as well) so that we don't doubt the outcome of any of our elections.  All of these are equally applicable for spotting #FakeNews.
  1. Don't Share anything that you have not read or watched.  This is likely obvious to loyal readers that have internalized the #ReadThinkShare of this site.   Studies from 2016 found that 60% of social media users never read beyond the headline making one more susceptible to click-bait.
  2. Learn how to recognize Fake News on your feed.   Many of these come naturally if you follow our rule #1.    That said, some of the these are:
    1. Look at the URL
    2. Investigate the source
    3. Look for manipulated photos
    4. Double-check the dates.
    5. Is the story a joke -- Onion or other well known satire column.
  3. Learn how to spot fake accounts and profiles.   If you don't know an individual making outlandish or ridiculous statements it's likely not worth your time to engage a troll or bot.   Your time would be better spent reporting this to the Social Media platform.   Here are the steps to report this to Facebook and here are the instructions for reporting accounts on Twitter
  4. Lastly, be very suspicious of Social Media ads.  OneHeadlineADay.com will have an upcoming post on that topic.