WASHINGTON, November 2, 2017 – If Russian Facebook ads influenced Americans during the 2016 election, did they really persuade Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians or Independent voters to change their minds?
Political ads that are designed to target a candidate are made up three things. A target, a message, and a voice. Political ads on Facebook are going to show up on targeted pages.
Meaning if you are sharing anti-Hillary posts, or posting political messages that are in support of Donald Trump, Facebook algorithms not only know, they know to send you this ad:
Don’t believe that. Open your Facebook page and go shoe shopping. Watch the ads on your page start linking to shoe sales. Airfares. Hotel rooms. Or anything else.
The problem is not that Russian’s places a Facebook ad. The problem for Congress to view is that Zuckerberg and Facebook collect massive amounts of information from every user – personal data such as where you live, who you live with, who you are related to, where you shop, if you travel, and what other websites, in this instance news websites, you visit.
Post a status update talking about making an upcoming trip, or click on an ad for travel to the Bahamas, and see how the ads posted in your feed change.
Did Russian Facebook ads inspire Republicans to vote, or dissuade Democrats from voting
If Facebook is wrong and the ads did target any specific political bias, or that the companies were merely using Russian satellites at the time, or that possibly the companies were parts of larger conglomerates that monitor.
Any advertiser can target their ads from anywhere in the world. There is no secret to that. They [international investors] establish and maintain a thriving global economic presence.
Did the Trump team strategically extended media production into the global market by buying outside of the domestic advertising footprint. If the evidence Facebook presented is inaccurate, where do we go from there?
Proving that the ads were purchased, does not legitimise a malicious intent when there are no clear specifics involved. Facebook is providing evidence, and weighing that evidence while users are left with questions as to its validity, target, and message.
What audience were the Russian placed ads trying to communicate to, and how effective was the decisions to place those ads?
Looking at the “Devil vs. Jesus” ad, we have to wonder how Christian – Evangelicals are seen from outside the U.S.
Russian Facebook Ads exploit the online marketplace
If Facebook provides the legal means to facilitate ad placement, how much are Russians really involved beyond being the financial backing of a legitimate sales transaction?
Russian companies are here in the US, so are a number of German companies. Could Facebook legally stop them from purchasing ads, even political ads?
According to Facebook Restricted Ad Content policies prohibited ads will include, but are not limited to:
- Ads that violate Facebook Community Standards
- Illegal products
- Discriminatory practices
- Tobacco, drugs, dating and gambling ads
- Weapons, ammunition or explosives
- Adult products, services or content
Restricted Content Ads on Facebook include:
- Online pharmacies
And on and on. The only political ad guideline found was:
Political affiliation: Policy Adverts must not request information regarding political affiliation without our prior permission.
Facebook has to look at the data and determine what target audience these “Russsian” bought ads” were designed to persuade during the 2016 election?
But in the words of Hillary Clinton, what difference does it make?
Did the Russians know something American’s do not?
Did anyone’s mind flip from a Hillary vote to a Donald vote, or vice versa, due to these ads?
Are American’s on Facebook so easily manipulated that their political ideology is going to change due to an ad?
The psychology of changing political viewpoints
In their 2013 article, The psychology of changing political viewpoints, WIRED magazine writes:
So how hard is it to change people’s fundamental political beliefs? Very difficult indeed, according to Dr Roger Kingerlee, a chartered psychologist: “Many interacting factors are involved, including biology and neurology, cultural conditioning, motivation, personality, and temperament.” In short, there’s a lot at play in any given individual, and most are pretty resistant. “Or, as some put it, ‘minds don’t want to change’,” states Kingerlee.