Senators urge Facebook to fix loophole allowing users to lie about source of political ads

    Senators Amy Klobuchar and Mark Warner. (Photos: The Associated Press)

    WASHINGTON (SBG) — Earlier this year, Facebook established several new regulations for political ads in an attempt to increase transparency. One of these changes is a mandatory "paid for by" disclosure that is supposed to guarantee viewers are aware who is behind the ad.

    A recent report by Vice News suggests that feature is easily manipulated, allowing users to post ads under fabricated identities. Now, with the midterm elections looming, two Senators have called on Facebook's CEO to fix the issue.

    Senators Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Mark Warner, D-V.a., are urging Mark Zuckerberg to address the loophole in the platform's ads transparency tool. In a joint press release, Klobuchar and Warner call the problem "unacceptable" and "deeply troubling."

    "We appreciate the work that Facebook has done to implement the Honest Ads Act, our legislation to create transparency and accountability measures for paid online political ads," the two say in a joint statement. "However, it is increasingly clear that major gaps exist in Facebook’s efforts, potentially allowing adversaries to exploit your platform with continued disinformation efforts.

    Warner and Klobuchar sponsored the Honest Ads Act in response to foreign interference in the 2016 election. The legislation aims to ensure political ads on digital platforms are held to the same standards as those sold on TV, radio, and satellite.

    “Free and fair elections require both transparency and accountability which give the public a right to know the true sources of funding for political advertisements in order to make informed political choices and hold elected officials accountable," the statement continues. "However, it is clear that there are significant loopholes with regard to how Facebook sells ads and the process by which disclaimers are applied to political ads.”

    "We strongly urge you to take every step necessary to close these loopholes in the transparency tool. We appreciate your prompt attention and look forward to continuing to work with you to promote more transparent political advertising."

    Facebook responded to the criticism generated by the Vice report, defending its system while acknowledging the flaws.

    "Our goal is to increase transparency on Facebook and prevent foreign interference elections which is why we have implemented the authorization process and released the Ad Archive," said Director of Product Management Rob Leathern. "Enforcement isn't perfect - and we won't stop all people trying to game the system - but we have made it much harder and will continue to improve."

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