The fourth time Facebook's ads have misinformation related to elections

By TechThop Team

Posted on: 16 Aug, 2022

A new report from Global Witness finds Facebook failed to catch blatant election-related misinformation in ads ahead of Brazil's 2022 election, continuing a pattern described as alarming by the group.

The advertisements promoted the wrong election date, and incorrect voting methods, and questioned the integrity of the election, including Brazil's electronic voting system.

The nonprofit has tested Meta's ability to catch blatant violations on Facebook four times, but it has failed every time. Facebook's controls - whether human or artificial - caught ads with violent hate speech submitted by Global Witness.

The social network is investing resources specifically to fight election-related disinformation in Brazil, Jon Lloyd of Global Witness said. So we tested their systems. Meta must get this right before the midterms.

The Brazilian elections will be held on October 2 amid high tensions and disinformation threatening to discredit the process. The most popular social media platform is Facebook. Brazil's 2022 election is 'elaborately prepared,' Meta said.

“As well as tracking election-related posts and promoting reliable information, we've set up a direct channel for the Brazilian Supreme Electoral Court to send us potentially harmful material.

As in the US, Facebook requires advertisers who wish to run ads about elections or politics to complete an authorization process. Russia used rubles to stoke divisions and unrest during the 2016 US presidential elections.

As a result of the test ads which were approved for publication, but were never actually published, Global Witness violated these rules. It should have raised red flags that the ads were placed outside Brazil, in Nairobi, and London.

Facebook also did not have to put a 'paid for by' disclaimer on the ads and did not use Brazilian payment methods - all precautions it says it has put in place to prevent malicious actors from misusing its platform.

“The results of this investigation and others indicate that their content moderation capabilities and integrity systems, intended to minimize some of the election risks, are not working,” Lloyd said.

As a test, the group is using advertisements and not regular posts due to Meta's claims that paid advertisements are held to a higher standard than regular posts. According to Lloyd, that's not clear based on the four investigations.

As a result, we are constantly relying on Facebook's word. It is just not possible for us to hold Meta or any other technology company accountable for what they say they are doing if we do not have a verified independent third-party audit,' he said.

The ads submitted by Global Witness violated Meta's advertising policy. In addition to false information, they called into question the integrity of Brazil's voting machines - echoing disinformation used by malicious actors to destabilize democracies.

A Federal University of Rio de Janeiro study found more than two dozen ads on Facebook and Instagram in July promoting misleading information or attacking the country's electronic voting machines.The university's Internet and social media department, NetLab, also participated in the Global Witness study, which found that many candidates had funded them.

The election will be the first since far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who is seeking reelection, came to power. Several times, Bolsonaro has criticized the integrity of the country's electronic voting system.

“As with its 2018 election, disinformation has already played a significant role in this year's election, spread from the top: Bolsonaro is already seeding doubt about the legitimacy of the election results, making global witnesses fear a US-inspired coup on January 6.

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