Facebook and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, pledged to fix how it handles political and issue ads in the wake of Russian meddling in 2016. But just days before the midterm elections, a key part of Facebook’s effort is broken, and it’s unclear if the company is doing anything to fix it.
The company even touted new rules for political ad-buyers as a major component of its work to combat disinformation on its platform. Political ads on the platform are now supposed to say who paid for them, but Facebook allows buyers to fill in that information themselves. And if anyone or any system at the company is supposed to be ensuring that the information these ad-buyers submit is the truth, they appear to be asleep at the wheel.
Earlier this week, Vice News, posing as a political ad-buyer, got approval from Facebook to run ads in the name of every single one of the US’ 100 senators. Vice News did not end up buying the ads. This came after Vice News had previously received approval from Facebook to run ads “Paid for” by Islamic State and Vice President Mike Pence.
On Thursday, ProPublica reported it had identified issues with how private interest groups use the Facebook disclaimer. Separately, CNN Business found one advertiser breaking Facebook’s rules twice in one week. Facebook missed both violations and only acted in both instances after CNN inquired about it.