Meta and TikTok are under scrutiny for approving ads that contain political misinformation, ahead of the US midterm elections. Global Witness, a human rights organization, along with the Cybersecurity for Democracy team at NYU has found the social media platforms to have gone against their own ad policies.
The investigation report stated that the misinformation was mostly related to voting procedures, that could potentially convince people to refrain from casting their votes. The report further mentioned the number of ads that were found to be misleading; with Facebook approving two of the ads in English and five in Spanish, and TikTok approving nearly all of the ads. YouTube however was found to be complying with its ad policies, since the company had blocked all of the misinformative ads from running, while also banning the originating accounts involved in the submission of the ads.
Global Witness further revealed that it had carried out a similar experiment in Brazil, where it found 100% of the election disinformation ads being approved by Facebook. On top of that, after Meta was made aware of the situation, it still proceeded to review 20-50% of the ads. YouTube too, contrary to its performance in the US, was found to be approving 100% of the disinformation ads in Brazil.
The data suggests that ad violation related to political content on popular social media platforms varies from region to region. Particularly with regard to TikTok, it seems like the future of the company in the US is a little shaky, considering that it also continues to face allegations of having ties with the Chinese government and functioning as a propaganda app.
In response to Global Witness’ report, Meta protested that the results were based on a very small sample of ads and were therefore not representative of the total number of political ads that it reviews daily across the world. The company further explained, “Our ads review process has several layers of analysis and detection, both before and after an ad goes live. We invest significant resources to protect elections, from our industry-leading transparency efforts to our enforcement of strict protocols on ads about social issues, elections, or politics – and we will continue to do so.”