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Disinformation campaign with more than 375 thousand ads “escapes” Facebook rules

The analysis by the New York University's Hamilton School of Engineering shows that Facebook's political campaign rules have significant systemic flaws. Upon checking the social network's Ad Library, the researchers discovered a misinformation campaign with more than 375,000 advertisements that did not reveal which entity was responsible for its funding.

Odocumento reveals that, between May 2018 and July 2019, 68,879 Facebook pages were identified with American political ads without any type of information about who would be behind its creation. Altogether, the advertising found generated about 37 million dollars.

Researchers also note that they have come across 16 communities that have spent more than $ 3 million on nearly 20,000 advertisements. The set of suspicious Facebook pages seemed to be linked, as they promoted the same type of messages: all of this without clearly disclosing who was behind the ads.

Example of advertisements found by the study credits: NYU Tandon

For example, a page called "Angry Buckeyes had, during December 2018, an advertisement that included an article that stated that the tariffs imposed by the Donald Trump China government could have negative consequences for the American middle class. The same publicity appeared later on pages with names like "Union Patriots" and "Middle Class Voices of Pennsylvania".

The investigators indicate that the disinformation campaign identified was intended to influence voters in certain US states. While it is not possible to see who manages the pages in question, they use tactics similar to the Russian troll farms that emerged during the 2016 presidential elections.

The flaws found in Facebook policies raise questions about the preparation of the social network for the 2020 presidential elections. Remember that in the summer of 2019, the social network tightened its grip on political ads on its platforms after some entities used misleading names in your advertising campaigns in order to hide your identity.

In early 2020, the company again announced the arrival of new measures to try to stop the spread of false information on the platform. However, it chose to maintain the presence of political announcements, even after facing public scrutiny for allowing political interventions that may constitute misinformation.