Facebook approved 100 fake ad disclosures that were allegedly 'paid for' by every United States senator

  • Facebook approved 100 fake political ad disclosures-each one claiming to have been to be paid for by a different US senator.
  • Earlier this year, Facebook started displaying the name of the politician or entity sponsoring political ads, in a move meant to increase transparency.
  • Just a few days earlier, it was revealed that Facebook also approved fake political ads that claimed to be paid for by Vice President Mike Pence, or by “ISIS.” In both cases, the ads were submitted as part of a experiment by Vice News.
  • Although Vice didn’t actually run any ads, Facebook admitted that neither instance should have occurred.

There’s new reason not to trust the “paid for by” disclaimer on the political ads you see on Facebook.

Facebook approved 100 fake political ad disclaimers that claimed to be paid for by every US senator, submitted by Vice News as part of an experiment. The social network began using the “paid for by” disclaimer in May, as a way to boost transparency in political advertising ahead of November’s general election.

Notably, with this experiment, Vice News didn’t actually get approval for fake ads. Instead – and this is an important distinction- it got approval to say that any political ads that it ran were “paid for by” Senator Mitch McConnell or any of his 99 colleagues in the Senate.

Facebook told Business Insider that the process for submitting ads and submitting ad disclosures are separate, and Vice only submitted fake ad disclosures. The approved disclosures would have allowed Vice to attach a “paid for by” message to any advertisements that it might have placed, should that ad pass muster and get approval.

To submit a political ad disclosure on Facebook, the social network requires a photo ID, the name of your company, and the last four digits of your social security number, all of which Vice says that it provided.

In general, the “paid for” feature seems vulnerable to bad-faith actors, and this isn’t the first time phony ads or disclosures have made it under Facebook’s radar. Just a few days earlier, Vice reported that Facebook had approved ads that claimed to be paid for by Vice President Mike Pence, and another by “ISIS,” also placed by the news site However, an ad submitted under Hillary Clinton’s name was rejected, Vice reports.

Notably, Facebook was quick to reject a fake disclosure “paid for” by CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Vice reports.

Facebook told Vice that none of these fake ads and disclosures should have been approved by the system, and that it’s working on several initiatives to combat misinformation and phony political ads.

Rob Leathern, Facebook’s director of roduct management, shared the following statement with Business Insider:

“When it comes to political and issue advertising on our platform, we believe people on Facebook should know who is behind the ads they’re seeing. It’s why we’ve placed more than one million ads in a publicly, searchable Ad Archive. We know we can’t do this alone and by housing these ads for up to seven years, people, regulators, third-parties and watchdog groups can hold these groups more accountable. This is also one piece of our broader efforts to bring greater transparency to ads related to politics on FB – an advertiser must also confirm their identity and location in the US before placing these ads.”

Read the full Vice News report here>>

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