Social media has been at the center of the political arena since the innovative tactics of Obama’s presidential campaign. A deluge of political advertisements followed, and the advent of big data allowed for more targeted, inflammatory advertisements that were buoyed by Facebook’s proprietary algorithms.
Following controversy surrounding data collection during the 2016 election, Facebook has maintained a hands-off, free-speech-oriented approach to regulating political ads. However, due to their control over our news feeds, Facebook cannot claim neutrality. As such, Facebook has a social responsibility to more closely monitor the political advertising on their platform.
The creation of targeted political ads begins with the constant data streams that flow through our daily lives. Users transmit tons of information that technology conglomerates like Google and Facebook use to target advertising. Everything from our GPS location to our browsing habits are stored and turned into a portrait of our online personalities.
While traditionally used in consumer markets, firms like Cambridge Analytica pioneered methods of leveraging this information for political messages. Utilizing personality tests and Facebook likes, Cambridge Analytica targeted inflammatory political ads toward specific users. The ads quickly dominated Facebook, resulting in the breakdown of political discourse on the site and the public at large.
Yet, Facebook refuses to do anything about it.