Two incidents in recent weeks have highlighted how Facebook’s advertising network—the cornerstone of its half-trillion-dollar valuation—is as susceptible to manipulation and bigotry as its news feed. Facebook addresses each problem as it arises, in isolation.
Democratic Senator Mark Warner and others want Facebook and other tech companies to testify about Russian interference in the 2016 election. He says the revelations about the Russian ads open “a whole new arena.”
Martinez thinks digital political ads should be regulated the way political ads on television are regulated, including disclaimers about who’s paying for the ad. “Facebook needs to know its customer,” Martinez says.
That wouldn’t have stopped a Russian propaganda group from buying ads related to hot-button social issues that weren’t specifically about the election. But Martinez says Facebook could develop the technology to flag politically charged ads for extra scrutiny the same way it flags ads related to alcohol. “If you tried advertising alcohol in Ohio to teens?” Martinez says. “Banned.”