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Facebook Wins, Democracy Loses

Posted on September 11th, 2017 at 17:02 by John Sinteur in category: News -- Write a comment

[Quote:]

A core principle in political advertising is transparency — political ads are supposed to be easily visible to everyone, and everyone is supposed to understand that they are political ads, and where they come from. And it’s expensive to run even one version of an ad in traditional outlets, let alone a dozen different versions. Moreover, in the case of federal campaigns in the United States, the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign-finance act requires candidates to state they approve of an ad and thus take responsibility for its content.

None of that transparency matters to Facebook. Ads on the site meant for, say, 20- to 30-year-old home-owning Latino men in Northern Virginia would not be viewed by anyone else, and would run only briefly before vanishing. The potential for abuse is vast. An ad could falsely accuse a candidate of the worst malfeasance a day before Election Day, and the victim would have no way of even knowing it happened. Ads could stoke ethnic hatred and no one could prepare or respond before serious harm occurs.

Unfortunately, the range of potential responses to this problem is limited. The First Amendment grants broad protections to publishers like Facebook. Diplomacy, even the harsh kind, has failed to dissuade Russia from meddling. And it’s even less likely to under the current administration.

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