Facebook Policies Under Fire Ahead of Elections

By Ben Hamill - March 26 2019
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Facebook Policies Under Fire Ahead of Elections

Facebook’s privacy policies and advertising strategies have been hot topics of discussion for quite some time now. Whilst the social media giant is doing everything in its power to be seen walking the straight and narrow, especially after news of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal broke, one cannot help but wonder whether it’s all just a giant show of keeping up appearances for the sake of saving face and making money.

Granted, the company didn’t present too much in the way of complaining when requested by Canadian regulators to update the necessary advertising and marketing policies in order to get in line with the changes that have been made to Canada’s election law. And yet, the term “half-baked” comes to mind whenever Facebook responds to any official request because no matter the what, how and when, a firm “but” is always played at too.

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Everything, Just Not That

Changes to Canada’s election law require any company involved in the sale of online advertising space or rights to keep a registry of all political ads. What’s more, companies are also required to refuse election-related ads from anywhere outside of the borders of the country. According to the provisions of the amended law, all of the details relating to any political ads placed on any public platform must be kept intact for a minimum period of 7 years.

Even more important is the fact that the registry must be searchable.  The information locked into the registry must include a copy of the actual add, the cost and expenditures associated with the placement of the add, and also the specific demographic data that was employed by the marketing platform; in this case Facebook; in order to reach its target audience.

Perfectly reasonable as far as transparency goes, and perfectly acceptable to those who have nothing to hide. And then of course, forever tilting slightly to the side on one or more controversial issue, there is Facebook.

Facebook’s Lukewarm Approach

Facebook has voiced no qualms in as far as the request for the keeping of a general registry goes, nor the disclosure of associated costs, but it has stopped short of committing to the full revelation of the process followed by the social media giant when a decision is made on exactly who the target audience for any particular advertisement will be.

The kind of information that this process relates to is referred to as microtargeting information. It also happens to be exactly the kind of information that Facebook has been accused of being particularly fond of selling; and in some cases, even dishing out for free.

Foreign interference in any election is a very serious offense, with some having gone as far as comparing the facilitation thereof to treason. Facebook claims to want what everyone else wants; i.e. a free and fair Canadian election. But then again, the company hasn’t exactly shown itself to be invested in looking after the best interests of the common man.

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