“Troll farms” and political ads

MIT Technology Review yesterday reported a story about how ‘troll farms’ (probably better described as ‘profiteering content spammers’) copy and repost content to gain (a lot of) traction on Facebook. The spammers’ strategy gamed the way the company chooses to display content to users, ensuring their posts got lots of engagement, before racking up even […]

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The Ray-Ban political ad library

Last week, Ray-Ban, in collaboration with Facebook, launched glasses that take photos and videos, and have little speakers in the arms for playing podcasts and the like (via Bluetooth – the glasses don’t have standalone network connectivity just yet). The speakers are “discreetly” built into the arms, so you can walk around, listening away, without […]

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How Facebook could publish targeting information and preserve user privacy

Ever since Facebook first started publishing political ad data in 2018, many organisations, including ourselves, have called for them to include information about ad targeting. So far, there’s been no movement on this, with Facebook arguing there’s a privacy risk if this data is combined with data from other parts of Facebook.  Here’s what (we […]

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Why (and how) the UK Online Safety Bill should regulate political ads

The UK Government’s proposed Online Safety Bill doesn’t currently include any measures that cover political advertising. However, we think that, being platform-focused, it’s actually a really good place to address some of the platform-level risks that online political ads create. (Other future legislation can think about those risks from the perspective of campaigners). So we […]

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Fact checking comes to Who Targets Me

Today we’re launching the first phase of some new features to allow the Who Targets Me browser extension to become part of the workflow of any reputable fact checking organisation in the world. Initially, we will be working with Correctiv for the German election, and Full Fact in the UK. We hope to add more […]

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Suspending our Notify service*

We’re suspending our Notify service for the foreseeable future. The goal of the service is to provide interested folks with a near-realtime notification of new political Facebook ads going live. When a new ad from a page or party launched, you get an email telling you about it and directing you to the relevant place […]

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New charts in the Who Targets Me browser extension

The Who Targets Me browser extension generates personalised results to help you understand the ways political ads are being used to reach you. To see them, after installing the extension, click the Who Targets Me icon in your browser toolbar to open the results page. (Note that personalised results will take a while to appear, […]

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Why political ads shouldn’t have social features

Last week, Rob Leathern, formerly a product director in Facebook’s ads team with specific responsibility for political ads, (now working on privacy products at Google) tweeted: I still find it odd that platforms like Twitter and Facebook let people comment on their ads. If someone wants to quote-tweet a Twitter ad then it is a […]

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How to correctly identify political ads (while acknowledging you can’t)

A question that’s asked a lot, particularly as discussions about how to regulate political ads rumble on, is “how should we decide what is – and isn’t – a political ad?” The answer matters because legislators and regulators – rightly – want to impose some costs on political ads in the name of trust and […]

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Thoughts on the UK Elections Bill

The UK Government has published a new Elections Bill. It has some good and important things in it, particularly with regard to digital ads, and some controversial and bad ones too. First thing to say is it contains a useful transparency measure – digital imprints. It’s good that paid digital election material will finally be […]

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