A new study has found that Facebook failed to flag most of the political ads on it platform, with the tech giant failing the most in Malaysia. The researchers found that in some cases, Facebook did not recognise ads with political elements while falsely labelling non-political ads as political.
The study [PDF] was done by researchers at Belgium’s KU Leuven and New York University, who examined 33.8 million Facebook ads that ran on the site between July 2020 and February 2021. Facebook’s policy requires ads of such nature to display a disclaimer on who exactly funded the ads. Political ads that fail to disclaim are to be taken down and added to the Ad Library.
According to the study, within 189,000 cases when Facebook reviewed an ad to determine whether or not it was political, it was wrong 83% of the time. These were made up of 117,000 political ads that weren’t labelled and 40,000 ads that were mistakenly flagged as political when they were not.
The US and New Zealand were found to have the most success with correctly filtering and labelling ads, with only 1% of ads slipping through, which amounts to just under ten thousand in the US. Facebook ads in Malaysia, on the other hand, scored the absolute worst where it missed 45% of political ads.
When they studied data from elections in the US and Brazil, the researchers also found that mislabelling ads created opportunities for manipulation, adding that “users who see ads without a political disclaimer may not be aware that their intent is to influence them.” Though it’s noted that staff do play a role in moderation, Facebook mostly relies on keywords through an automated system to identify these ads.
(Source: AFP via FMT.)