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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Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders waves to supporters at a campaign rally on Friday in Las Vegas. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

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Why it matters: Nevada is the first state with a diverse population to hold a nominating contest, highlighting candidates' abilities to connect with voters of color — particularly Latino voters.

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South Korea and Italy see spikes in coronavirus cases

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus has spread to more nations, and the U.S. reports a doubling of its confirmed cases to 34 — while noting these are mostly due to repatriated citizens, emphasizing there's no "community spread" yet in the United States.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed at least 2,362 people and infected more than 77,000 others, mostly in mainland China. New countries to announce infections recently include Israel and Lebanon, while Iran reported its sixth death from the virus. South Korea's confirmed cases jumped from 204 Friday to 433 on Saturday and Italy's case count rose from 3 to 62 by Saturday.

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

American farmers are struggling to safely use the roads that cut through their fields; decades of neglect and lack of funding have made the routes dangerous.

The big picture: President Trump has long promised to invest billions in rural infrastructure, and his latest proposal would allocate $1 trillion for such projects. Rural America, where many of Trump's supporters live, would see a large chunk of that money.