‘Suspicious’ Groups Paid for Most of Facebook’s Politically Divisive Ads, Researchers Find

More than half of the sponsors of ads on Facebook that featured divisive political messages ahead of the 2016 presidential election have little or no public paper trails, according to a study from researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

One-sixth of those ad buyers with little background information were linked to Russia, according to the study released Monday. Researchers examined 5 million ads encountered from Sept. 28 to Nov. 8, 2016, by about 9,500 volunteers, who were chosen to represent the demographics and partisan affiliations of U.S. voters. The ads were captured by special software in the participant’s web browsers.

Researchers said the study is the first widespread examination of digital political advertising, and comes as Facebook Inc. faces increased congressional scrutiny and potential regulation of its business model and policies.

Young Mie Kim, the study’s lead author, and her team found that a quarter of the Facebook ads that were examined mentioned candidates. Some of them drew attention to candidate scandals including Donald Trump’s remarks about women on the Access Hollywood tape or Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server for official business while she was Secretary of State. The rest focused on controversial subjects such as abortion and guns.

Though most of the ads didn’t mention candidates, many echoed themes raised by the them, the researchers found.

“Some of these ads are very deliberate, using a candidate’s particular issues without using the candidate’s name,” said Kim, a professor in the school of journalism and mass communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Federal laws require sponsors of political ads on television, cable, satellite and radio to disclose information to the Federal Election Commission and the Federal Communications Commission. But they don’t apply to issue ads bought on online platforms like Facebook, even those that mention candidates. The FEC requires sponsors of ads …read more

Source:: Time – Technology


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