The National Memo: Under New Rules, Zuckerberg Will Be Our Top Propaganda Cop


Will Facebook’s new political advertising rules tame extremists in American campaigns and elections, accomplishing something that neither Congress, federal regulators nor the judiciary have done?


“Self regulation is not the answer,” said Young Mie Kim, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor and scholar-in-residence at the Washington-based Campaign Legal Center. Her research team, Project DATA, just released an analysis of Facebook’s paid ads in the final six weeks of the 2016 campaign.

Kim’s team tracked all paid advertising on nearly 10,000 volunteers devices in the six weeks before the 2016 election. It found a third of the paid advertising was political. Of the most divisive ads—content referring to abortion, LGBT, racial conflict, the alt-right, nationalism, terrorism, guns, etc.—that 80 percent were by “suspicious” groups, meaning they did not clearly or honestly identify themselves.

“The suspicious groups are groups that are by definition untrackable beyond a certain point,” Kim said. “Some groups use very generic and benign names, and are very similar to existing non-profits and known groups. There’s America First. The America First the political action committee, which is not the [previous] group we identified. There’s groups with no information, no public footprint.”

Facebook’s new rules may be intended to take itself out of the crossfire sparked by Russian interference in the 2016 election via propaganda on its platform and a GOP-connected political firm stealing 87 million user profiles.

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