Facebook allows the Trump campaign to run false and misleading ads with impunity

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I regret to inform you that Facebook and the Trump campaign are at it again.

Last week, Popular Information identified hundreds of Trump campaign Facebook ads targeting women in Texas that violated Facebook's ad policies. After I contacted Facebook, the company acknowledged those ads violated its rules and took them offline.

Facebook also admitted that it was not manually reviewing political ads. Instead, it was relying on a computer algorithm. Facebook is a $500 billion company with 35,000 employees. Somehow, a political newsletter with a staff of one is better equipped to devote human resources to this problem.

On Monday, I identified dozens of new Trump campaign ads that violated Facebook policies. They were all variants of this ad about the Second Amendment:

There are, of course, no elected Democrats at the national level calling for "a repeal of the Second Amendment." Therefore, this ad violates Facebook's prohibition on "false or misleading content." (Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens did call for repealing the Second Amendment, but he is a Republican appointed by former Republican president Gerald Ford.)

I contacted Facebook about this ad at 1:34 PM Eastern on Monday and gave them a deadline of 10 PM Eastern to respond. At 7:17 PM Eastern, a Facebook spokesman acknowledge receipt of my questions and promised he would get back to me. As of Tuesday morning, I have received no further response from the company but all of Trump's Second Amendment ads are now "inactive."

It's unclear if Facebook took the ads offline or if the Trump campaign did it voluntarily. Of course, if the only consequence of running a false ad is that you have to take it down when you are caught, there is absolutely no incentive to follow the rules.

The review process for Facebook's political ads is broken. But the company, with virtually unlimited resources, appears in no hurry to fix it. False, manipulative, and misleading ads continue to be run from the Trump campaign, and nothing happens until this newsletter brings it to Facebook's attention.

UPDATE (12:21): Still no official word from Facebook, but the language of all Trump’s Second Amendment ads have been altered. Here is the new version:

The key difference is changing “Democrats have admitted what they truly want: a repeal of the Second Amendment.” to “Democrats have been telling us that they only want ‘gun control.’ But the truth is finally out. Now some are now [sic] proudly calling for a REPEAL OF THE SECOND AMENDMENT.”

This is slightly more accurate since there are some Democrats somewhere who want the Second Amendment repealed, even if the party as a whole is not embracing that position. (A recent poll also found 8% of Republicans want to repeal the Second Amendment.)

An informed public is the cornerstone of a functioning Democracy. Facebook's neglect is putting us at risk of a 2016 repeat.

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More importantly, you are supporting independent journalism that will hold Facebook and the Trump campaign accountable and protect the Democratic process.

If something is holding you back from subscribing, please let me know. You can reach me anytime at judd@popular.info.