Facebook faced a big test on Tuesday -- so how are they doing?
After months of intense criticism around fake news, sketchy ad spending and other inauthentic behavior centered around U.S. politics, Tuesday's midterm elections became a focal point for just how effectively Facebook (FB) - Get Facebook, Inc. Class A Report has been cleaning up its platform. Owing in part to its heavier spending on security issues, Facebook's stock is down 17% year to date.
On Monday, Facebook revealed that it blocked dozens of accounts that may have been connected to the Internet Research Agency, a Russia-based troll farm that used Facebook to spread misinformation. Nathanial Gleicher, Facebook's head of cybersecurity policy, wrote in a blog post that U.S. law enforcement contacted Facebook about inauthentic behavior, and 85 Facebook accounts and 30 Instagram accounts were subsequently blocked.
Meanwhile, on Oct. 26, Facebook removed dozens of accounts and pages linked to Iran that posed as U.S. citizens and posted about "politically charged topics such as race relations, opposition to the President, and immigration," Gleicher wrote in an earlier post.
"Given that we are only one day away from important elections in the US, we wanted to let people know about the action we've taken and the facts as we know them today," Gleicher wrote in the Monday post.
Much of it has to do with loopholes and flaws in the ad transparency tools Facebook introduced to track political advertising on its platform. Last month, an investigation by Vice News found that reporters who posed as U.S. Senators to create political ads were all approved by Facebook. According to the report, it was possible to change the "Paid for by" tag, added by Facebook in May for the purpose of adding transparency to political ads, after the ad was already published.
A separate New York Times report found that a Virginia Congressional candidate, Jennifer Wexton, was barraged with anonymous, inflammatory attack ads on Facebook. The identity of the person buying the ads is known to Facebook, the report said, but attributed on the site as a self-described "a freedom loving American Citizen exercising my natural law right, protected by the 1st Amendment and protected by the 2nd Amendment" under Facebook's disclosure mechanism.
Meanwhile, Ad Age found that ads from companies including Nike, Reebok and Walmart were mistakenly flagged as "political content" for certain language used in the posts, which Facebook blamed on its combination of AI and human reviewers who oversee content.
"Enforcement is never perfect but it continues to get better as we train more reviewers and our automated systems review more ads," said Facebook director Rob Leathern in a statement to AdAge.
The reports of loopholes in Facebook's ad tools drew the ire of Sens. Mark Warner and Amy Klobuchar, who wrote a joint letter urging Facebook in no uncertain terms to fix the fix the flaws as soon as possible.
"The major gaps existing in Facebook's transparency tool could allow adversaries to exploit the platform with continued disinformation efforts," the Senators wrote.
Facebook didn't immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.
Facebook's stock was up 1% on Wednesday but was falling 2.4% on Thursday late morning.
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