Oct 9, 2017

Russia probe attracts scrutiny to Facebook’s political ads

Mark Zuckerberg gives the commencement address at Harvard. Photo: Steven Senne / AP

The Washington Post's Matea Gold and Elizabeth Dwoskin illustrate how Facebook's place in the federal government's Russia probe has shined a light on the secretive nature behind political advertising on the platform.

What's next: "Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and Mark R. Warner (Va.) plan to introduce a bill in the coming weeks that would require sites with more than 1 million users to maintain a public file containing a copy of political ads and information about who they are aimed at."

Why it matters: "The situation has the potential to affect a key profit center for Facebook. The same proprietary technology that has made Facebook the go-to advertising platform for political campaigns also enabled Russian operatives to target U.S. voters with inflammatory ads."

Data point: "By Election Day, Trump's campaign had spent roughly $70 million on Facebook ... nearly all in the last four months of the election."

Be smart:

  • You'll see talk online about Facebook "embeds" to the Trump campaign, based on a "60 Minutes" interview with Trump digital director Brad Parscale. The Facebook employees, who had been screened as Republicans, showed up several times a week at Parscale's office in San Antonio.
  • "60 Minutes," acting shocked, did a poor job of explaining that these are basically salespeople — provided by the platforms to encourage ad buying.
  • The same system was used in the 2012 campaign.

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Why it matters: Twelve days of nationwide protest in the U.S. has built pressure for states to make new changes on what kind of force law enforcement use on civilians and prompted officials to review police conduct.

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The big picture: That's a result of myriad longstanding inequities within the health care system and the American economy.

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