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More details emerge about Facebook's role in voter suppression

Paul Brislen, Editor. 29 September 2020, 8:57 am

Information revealed by the UK's Channel 4 news shows Facebook's role in a massive voter suppression campaign carried out in the US 2016 presidential election.

The use of highly targeted "dark ads" (advertising that is only visible to a small number of Facebook users and which doesn't comply with election laws regarding advertising) helped ensure key voters in a number of so-called "swing states" were encouraged not to vote.

With over five terabytes of data relating to more than 200 million American voters, the campaign targeted black American voters in larger proportion. Black voter turnout in the US dropped for the first time in 20 years, says Channel 4.

The campaign was run in conjunction with now shuttered UK-based Cambridge Analytica, whose role in the UK's Brexit campaign and its access to Facebook data, was seen as instrumental in the close result in that referendum.

Facebook has been criticised for not doing enough to police the content it shares on its platforms and for allowing political advertising to continue even as evidence emerges of Facebook's role in in political interference and election fraud, not to mention genocide.

Indeed, Facebook's own employees are beginning to rebel, challenging founder, CEO and largest shareholder Mark Zuckerberg on his seeming unwillingness to change the way Facebook operates to remove some of the more extremist content.

Zuckerberg previously announced the establishment of an oversight board, which would have the power to veto decisions around political advertising on a case-by-case basis. The board is already under fire for not tackling current advertising and says it will begin operation in mid October.

The US presidential election takes place on November 4.


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