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Screenshot from Facebook

Showing they plan to continue playing hardball with Big Tech, Democratic Senators Mark Warner (Va.) and Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) created a Facebook page for a fictional political group — Americans for Disclosure Solutions (ADS) — then paid to target the newsfeeds of thousands of journalists and Hill staffers.

Why it matters: A Warner aide tells me the senator was surprised that "there was literally no mechanism on [Facebook] for us to [prove] we were who we said we were," adding, "it was really easy for Russian operatives to use the same micro-targeting tools as they attempted to meddle in last fall's presidential election ... [Y]ou can see why this would be so appealing to the Russians."

How they did it: Warner and Klobuchar — who have introduced a bill, backed by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), to require more disclosure about online politics ads — created a "Political Organization" page on Facebook for the fictional group.

  • "Using campaign funds in accordance with Senate ethics rules," according to aides, they "launched a small, 24-hour ad buy on Facebook targeting Washington, D.C. journalists and Capitol Hill staffers."
  • "For just $20, ... Warner and Klobuchar reached 1,369 self-identified Hill staffers in under 24 hours."
  • "For just $20, Warner and Klobuchar reached 1,407 Washington, D.C.-based journalists."

Be smart: Axios media trends reporter Sara Fischer, an authority on digital advertising, tells me (vehemently, BTW) that this experiment doesn't go far enough: That "reach" doesn't mean the targets saw the ad — just that they could have.

  • Sara emails: "In the political advertising world, you would need to serve at least 7-10 viewable impressions to a person over a short window, two-four weeks, to even begin driving intent or action."
  • "But the experiment shows how easy and cost-effective it is for anyone to access the tools to potentially build a political campaign on Facebook."

The takeaway: Facebook has been (belatedly) the most forthcoming of the three tech giants, but their political stop gates aren't in place yet: They say they're working on it, and it will take time.

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Go deeper

Hill votes will make global waves

President Biden addresses the UN General Assembly on Sept. 21, 2021 in New York City. Photo: Eduardo Munoz-Pool/Getty Images)

This epic week for President Biden on Capitol Hill is even bigger than his domestic agenda.

Why it matters: Biden has anchored his entire strategy for foreign affairs on the notion that "America is back." What that means in practice is that Biden needs to prove democracy works to rally America’s liberal allies against rising authoritarians.

2 hours ago - World

German election: Exit polls show close race to succeed Angela Merkel

SPD leader Olaf Scholz. Photo: Alex Kraus/Bloomberg via Getty Images

BERLIN — The first exit poll from Sunday's German elections showed the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) and the center-right Christian Democrats (CDU) in a dead heat at 25%, leaving the race to succeed Angela Merkel too close to call.

The state of play: A second exit poll showed the SPD narrowly ahead. That's the one televisions displayed at SPD headquarters in Berlin, where the room erupted into cheers. Official results will roll in throughout the evening.

Abbott says he'll hire Border Patrol agents who whipped at migrants

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Sunday defended the actions of U.S. Border Patrol agents who charged at Haitian migrants on horseback, blaming the Biden administration for not preventing them from crossing the border.

Why it matters: Abbott's remark on "Fox News Sunday" comes amid increased backlash over the incident, with President Biden saying, "I promise... those people will pay,” and the Department of Homeland Security launching an investigation.

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