Facebook has misidentified tens of thousands of ads that are flagged under its political advertising policy, according to a study released Thursday, warning that the failure could lead to political manipulation.
Researchers at Belgium’s KU Leuven University and New York University examined 33.8 million Facebook ads that ran on the social networking site between July 2020 and February 2021.
“This is the first known study to quantify the performance of Facebook’s political advertising policy enforcement system at a large and representative scale,” the team said in a summary of the results. their.
Facebook imposes stricter conditions on paid ads related to “social issues, elections or politics,” including posts promoting specific candidates.
Ads labeled as political appear on the site with a disclaimer explaining who paid for them. Ads found to be political, when they are not declared as such, will be taken down.
But researchers found that in the 189,000 cases where Facebook looked at an ad to check if it should be seen as political, it was wrong 83 percent of the time.
Of these, there were 117,000 cases where Facebook’s detection system failed to flag ads that were supposed to be political, and 40,000 were mistakenly flagged as political when they weren’t.
The researchers note that Facebook’s policy enforcement is largely based on detecting keywords in ads under an automated system, although employees also act as content moderators.
The period studied included elections in Facebook’s two major markets, the US and Brazil, and the researchers warn that mislabeling the ads creates an opportunity for manipulation.
When Facebook fails to identify advertisers who do not correctly claim their ads are political, malicious people can spread misinformation.
“Users who see ads without a political disclaimer may not be aware that their intent is to influence them,” they added.
The team noted that the US social media giant missed a higher percentage of undeclared political ads outside of the US.
The platform has the worst record in Malaysia, where it misses up to 45% of ads from political sites or advertisers.
“In Macedonia, Argentina, Turkey, Portugal, France and Serbia, Facebook missed one in four ads from such sites, sponsored by candidates or parties.”
This study follows Facebook’s criticisms of a recent whistleblower scandal, including allegations that the site’s ability to fake hate speech and misinformation has been severely lacking outside of the methodology. West.
In the United States, Facebook introduced a ban on political ads around the 2020 presidential election, following a deep controversy over the platform’s role leading up to the 2016 election of Donald Trump.
The researchers found that Facebook still allowed more than 70,000 political ads to run during the 2020 moratorium.
AFP has reached out to Facebook to request comment on the study.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and was automatically generated from the feed provided.)