In a recent assessment, Facebook revealed that 10 million users saw the ads placed by the Russian affiliated groups designed to cause social tension in America before and after the 2016 election. It further admitted that it does face a daunting task entailing the balancing of foreign election interference with social discourse.
The admission came after the social media giant met with Congress yesterday and provides new details on the scope of the infiltration on the largest social media firm. Apparently, less than half of the ads had been seen before the US election on November 8th and 56 percent of them were viewed afterward. About 25 percent of the ads were not exposed to the public.
Facebook Targeting System, a Double-Edged Sword
According Eliot Schrage, the vice president of policy and communications on the platform, some of the ads were paid for in Russian currency but this in itself is not a defining factor. He did defend Facebook’s use of targeting but apparently, there are now certain types which will require human review and approval. Facebook does allow for the precise ad targeting which is based according to demographics which are inclusive of race and gender.
The platform says these are imperative for the connection of people with content interests between them. It has become a double-edged sword through considering polarising groups have used it to target users via hate speech phrases. To this end, Facebook now admits its system is being taken advantage and is taking steps to address it but maintains that controversial content is unavoidable.
This is on the basis of the constitutional freedoms that are provided for every citizen in America. Facebook claimed they support these messages because they support the values of free speech and discourage censoring.
Universality of the Platform
Facebook is not the only platform which is coming under fire from Washington to disclose details on infiltration and not doing enough to protect the society from subversion. Twitter and Google have also been accused recently of facilitating the spread of fake news. Senator Mark Warner on the Senate Intelligence Committee claimed that he intended to introduce a bill with the aim of removing exemptions when it comes to online political ads that had shielded buyers from analysis in the past.
Late Last year, Marck Zuckerberg claimed that it was crazy to think that the platform was actually being used in that manner. On the 21st of last month though things had gotten quite hot due to pressure from the public and the government and he has had to apologize for the statement and being out of touch with the actual situation.
The question is whether the problem is solvable in the near future because the way the American society is set up is a powder keg for racial and lifestyle tensions.
People will still have divergent views and these are the only platforms that people know how to talk on thus far. It would be repressive to take all of that away because of the risk of infiltration. However, it would require the platforms themselves to have the strictest guards especially during key seasons of vulnerability such as elections or events that would cause turmoil such as the recent mass shooting in Las Vegas.