Wed, Oct 04, 2017 - Page 10 News List

Facebook to boost internal ad reviews

RUSSIAN INTERFERENCE:The firm is to hire 1,000 people to review ads after saying Russia-linked accounts bought ads on LGBT matters, race, immigration and gun rights


Facebook Inc outlined plans to strengthen its advertisement systems and disclosed that about 10 million people saw ads linked to Russian efforts to influence last year’s US presidential election.

The social media giant on Monday said it would add more than 1,000 people to review the ads that run on its platforms.

Additionally, the company said it provided information on about 3,000 relevant ads to US congressional investigators.

The company last month said that accounts affiliated with Russia bought more than US$100,000 in election-related ads. That disclosure prompted a congressional probe, which now includes Twitter Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google.

The companies have been asked to testify before the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee later this month and the Senate’s corresponding committee on Nov. 1.

Two weeks ago, Facebook chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg announced an overhaul to the rules around political ad spending and said that the company would add 250 employees to work on election integrity.

“I don’t want anyone to use our tools to undermine democracy,” Zuckerberg said in a video message.

While Facebook said it was bulking up the staff that review ad spending, it declined to offer details on the process.

The company also introduced several updates to the ad-buying process, including tighter restrictions on content and improved rules to force advertisers to demonstrate their authenticity before they can make purchases.

Had these measures been in place prior to the election, “we believe we would have caught these malicious actors faster and prevented more improper ads from running,” Facebook vice president of policy and communications Elliot Schrage wrote on Monday in a blog post.

He added that for half the ads, less than US$3 was spent, and that US$1,000 or more was spent on less than 1 percent of the ads.

US Representative Adam Schiff, a Democrat and the party’s ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, is not sure whether Facebook’s announced changes will make a difference.

“If foreign countries are advertising in a way that is designed to divide us, as a lot of these ads were, is that something that, number one, they are going to be able to discover?” Schiff said.

And if so, he asked, can the social media platform then stop and expose the action?

“I don’t have the answers to those questions. But I think those are some of the things we’re going to want to ask during the hearing,” Schiff said.

Facebook declined to expand on the nature of the ads found beyond its Sept. 6 blog post that said “the ads and accounts appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum — touching on topics from LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights.”

The company said its automated advertising system is designed to target users most interested in the topic of the messages.

“But we know ad targeting can be abused, and we aim to prevent abusive ads from running on our platform,” Schrage wrote on Monday. “To begin, ads containing certain types of targeting will now require additional human review and approval.”

Facebook groups such as Defend the 2nd, targeting gun-rights supporters, the gay rights-focused page LGBT United, and even another to attract dog lovers, are suspected as having connections to Russia, the New York Times reported on Monday.

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