"The UK parliament has provided another telling glimpse behind the curtain of Facebook's unregulated ad platform by publishing data on scores of pro-Brexit adverts..." reports TechCrunch, adding that the 2016 ads "were run prior to Facebook having any disclosure rules for Political ads. So there was no way for anyone other than each target recipient to know a particular ad existed or who it was being targeted at." An anonymous reader quotes their report: The targeting of the ads was carried out on Facebook's platform by AggregateIQ, a Canadian data firm that has been linked to Cambridge Analytica/SCL... [I]t's not clear how many ad impressions they racked up in all. But total impressions look very sizable. While some of what runs to many thousands of distinctly targeted ads which AIQ distributed via Facebook's platform are listed as only garnering between 0-999 impressions apiece, according to Facebook's data, others racked up far more views. Commonly listed ranges include 50,000 to 99,999 and 100,000 to 199,999 -- with even higher ranges like 2M-4.9M and 5M-9.9M also listed.... The publication of the Brexit ads is, above all, a reminder that online political advertising has been allowed to be a blackhole -- and at times a cesspit -- because cash-rich entities have been able to unaccountably exploit the obscurity of Facebook's systemically dark ad targeting tools for their own ends, and operate in a darkness where only Facebook had oversight (and wasn't exercising any), leaving the public no right of objection let alone reply, despite it being people's lives that are indelibly affected by political outcomes.... The company has been making some voluntary changes to offer a degree of political ad disclosure, as it seeks to stave off regulatory rule. Whether its changes -- which at best offer partial visibility -- will go far enough remains to be seen. Earlier this month the UK's data watchdog released a report titled "Democracy disrupted?" in which the UK's Information Commissioner recommends an "ethical pause" of political advertising on social media to allow key players "to reflect on their responsibilities in respect to the use of personal data..." And this weekend an interim report from the House of Commons' media committee "said democracy is facing a crisis because the combination of data analysis and social media allows campaigns to target voters with messages of hate without their consent," according to the Associated Press. "Tech giants like Facebook, which operate in a largely unregulated environment, are complicit because they haven't done enough to protect personal information and remove harmful content, the committee said."
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