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.

Classic Literature or Embarrassing Relics?

We generally notice when school districts adjust reading lists in English Literature classes.  So when I  heard about the Duluth School district's decision to remove "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and "To Kill A Mockingbird" from their required reading lists, I was very skeptical.   So was opinion writer, DJ Tice, where he argues below about the suffocating freedom of thought and that these books are "about so much more than America's racial past".

One week later, I read another opinion piece from a former high school English teacher.  (This was a counterpoint in response to DJ Tice's piece).   Lee J. Woolman describes of his personal decision to remove both of these works from his teaching.   The personal story of how a student felt about reading these works out loud illustrates how policy affects individuals. Ultimately he argues that these books may be part of the problem rather than a solution to the racial problems in the United States.

'Mockingbird,' 'Huck Finn': At least keep these two books as part of your personal curriculum

DJ Tice

I couldn’t seem to ... harden ... against him ... I’d see him standing my watch on top of his’n ... so I could go on sleeping; and ... do[ing] everything he could think of for me ... I says to myself: “All right, then, I’ll go to hell” ... and never thought no more about reforming ... I would take up wickedness ... And for a starter, I would ... steal Jim out of slavery...; and if I could think up anything worse, I would do that, too ...

— “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”

There is no such thing as a truly educated American who has not read the masterpieces of Harper Lee and Mark Twain. So public high school students in Duluth will have more self-enrichment to seek now that Duluth school officials have decided to remove two of our nation’s literary treasures from their required English curriculum.

But don’t fret none, as Huck might say. No one who truly cares about being an educated person — or about English, literature, or history — will fail in time to seek out Atticus and Scout, Huck and Jim, Boo and Tom, the King and the Duke, and all the rest. <more>

Counterpoint: Why I banished 'Huckleberry Finn' from my classroom

Lee J. Woolman

Counterpoint: Why I banished 'Huckleberry Finn' from my classroom
Yes, he allows as how some black parents could bristle at the frequent use of the “N-word.” The thrust of his commentary, however, is to minimize that concern and instead focus on what I suppose he believes is yet another example of “thought police” at work.

Tice’s ability to take such a stand is classic white privilege.

As a high school English teacher for many years, it took me a long time to appreciate how my black students were responding to class discussions, which usually required textual references, of Pap, Huck and the Duke frequently using the “N-word.” I long felt uncomfortable teaching “Huck Finn” because of that word, but kept it in the curriculum out of such excuses as “we’ve always used ‘Huck Finn’ with sophomores” or “but it is a classic American novel.”

My classes in a mostly white school often had only two or three African-American students. And there they sat, hearing their classmates daily for a month regularly using the “N-word” under official auspices. <more>

Midterm Elections - Is Social Media Ready?

What Mark Zuckerberg once thought was a "pretty crazy idea" has now been universally accepted.  Robert Mueller's indictment of 13 Russians is a fascinating read on how Social Media (among other techniques) was used to influence the 2016 election.   Since we are just over eight months away from the midterm elections, now is a good time to see whether Social Media platforms have done anything about it.     Looking at Facebook, they have announced a low-tech solution to validating where ads are being purchased.    At the same time Rob Goldman, Facebook VP of advertising at Facebook, is taking a more defiant tone, saying that most of the Russian ads came after the election.    Stay tuned, but if you spend any time on Facebook, remain skeptical of political ads that come across your stream.

Facebook Now Says It Will Verify Election Ad Buyers' Identities With Postcards

Tom McKay

Facebook, which landed itself in the crosshairs after becoming one of the primary venues by which federal prosecutors allege a Kremlin-linked, pro-Donald Trump Russian operation called the Internet Research Agency tried to flood the US with disinformation and propaganda before the 2016 elections, now says it will verify the identities of people who buy election-related ads by mailing postcards.

Per Reuters, Facebook says the process will involve any advertising that mentions a specific candidate, but not general issue-based ads:

The process of using postcards containing a specific code will be required for advertising that mentions a specific candidate running for a federal office, Katie Harbath, Facebook’s global director of policy programs, said. The requirement will not apply to issue-based political ads, she said. <more>

Facebook Vice President of Ads Slams 'Main Media Narrative' of Russian Interference

Timothy Meads

Facebook’s Vice President of Ads, Rob Goldman, tweeted last night his excitement in the charges brought forth by the FBI against Russian actors who attempted to influence the 2016 presidential election. Goldman also trashed the media's coverage of Russian interference, asserting that many are intentionally ignoring key facts in order to fit the “main media narrative of Trump and the election.”

Yesterday, Special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russian nationals for “interfering in the U.S. election process. In a detailed 37-page report, the FBI explains how the defendants used false identities to stage political protests, rallies, and recruit Americans in their conspiracy,” as noted by Cortney. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein emphasized that no American knew they were “communicating with Russians.”The write to be shown on the right side <more>