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Facebook and Political Ads

There’s a newly spotted code on a Facebook website, and it suggests that the platform might be preparing to take a leap forward in transparency around how political ads are targeted to its users. Facebook, however, denies this and states that no such change is afoot.

Microtargeting on Facebook allows progressive voting rights groups to show their ads only to racial minorities. Or a pro-nuclear energy group to choose vegans as its target audience. In 2016, Russian operatives attempted to divide the American population by directing Facebook to show racially divisive messages, for instance, only to African-Americans. Such targeting power is built into Facebook’s design. In fact, a recent Senate Intelligence Committee report said Russian meddlers had used the Facebook platform “exactly as it was engineered to be used.”
Yet this information about how each ad is targeted is available only to people who see one and then click on an obscure button. It’s known on the platform as “Why am I seeing this?” or “WAIST,” and Facebook has consistently refused to disclose WAIST info for individual ads to the broader public.

The information, however, appears to be a part of an upcoming redesign of Facebook’s political ad transparency website, at least according to Quartz’s review of the code. But Facebook spokesperson Tom Channik denies this, saying that they are “not considering adding targeting parameters to the ad library at this time.”

But earlier this month, the JavaScript code inside Facebook’s ad library site included several references to a button for WAIST.

Know more about this over at the site.

What are your thoughts about this one?

(Image Credit: ElisaRiva/ Pixabay)


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