Commentary

Facebook, Twitter Political Ads Should Mimic TV Rules

Some political TV advertising can be misleading, especially those super PAC (political action committee) commercials. You’re not sure where they come from or who is behind it.

But what Facebook found out is worse: A Russian-backed "troll farm" bought $100,000 worth of advertising space on Facebook through fake accounts, according to the company. The shadowy entity had a history of pushing pro-Kremlin propaganda.

The money doesn’t sound like much -- especially considering the tens of millions spent on the presidential campaigns last year on traditional TV advertising. But the electoral impact could have been sizable. 

Facebook found that 3,300 ads had digital footprints that led to the Russian company from 470 suspicious and likely fraudulent Facebook accounts. Twitter has seen some of the same things, according to reports.  

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The new state of media carries specific problems, such as how you can buy advertising. In particular, reports suggest the Russian “troll farm” was using Facebook’s automated, self-service ad-buying tool.

All that means way less oversight. And in some cases, social media wants to take a big hands-off approach. Twitter told The New York Times: “We, as a company, should not be the arbiter of the truth.” Does that include advertising?

Some in Congress are already thinking Facebook and Twitter could see future regulation regarding political advertising -- much like what TV networks and stations must abide with.

Some of those TV rules: All spots must include a sponsorship ID stating the political ad was “paid for” or “sponsored by” the entity actually paying for the time. Specifics of that advertising need to be publicly available in a political file. TV stations need to offer political advertising at the lowest unit rate.

Still, this isn’t a perfect set-up. Lots of political TV advertising can be obscured any number of ways.

For some time now, social media had been accused of spreading false information -- both user and advertising content. Social media -- users and readers -- love the fact they can be anonymous. Advertisers as well? Perhaps that isn’t a concern when considering a TV commercial for cereal, a movie ticket, cell phone service, or car insurance. But ads for a U.S. president? That source is good to know.

This concern arises as Facebook continues to have measurement issues with advertisers -- especially with video advertising.

Wondering if those faux Russian political marketers are sending in their complaints as well.

2 comments about "Facebook, Twitter Political Ads Should Mimic TV Rules".
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  1. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, September 11, 2017 at 3 p.m.

    There is probably more that has yet to be discovered or admitted. Political ads are also known as "check with order" ads. That check better be able to be traced to more than an offshore account from XYZ. fbeast is a publisher no matter how they squeal they are not and therefore held responsible for what they publish. Yes, they will have to spend more.

  2. Linda Moskal from WNPV Radio, September 13, 2017 at 9:48 a.m.

    While I realize this is "TV Watch," mention could have been made that the same political advertising rules are in place for radio.  

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