The Facts of Life: how to investigate online political ads

Source: Help Us Monitor Political Ads Online — ProPublica

A terrific plan from ProPublica. A central excerpt that’ll tell us what they’re doing and how we can (and must) participate:

The nature of online advertising is such that ads appear on people’s screens for just a few hours, and are limited to the audience that the advertiser has chosen. So, for example, if an advertiser micro-targets a group such as 40-year-old female motorcyclists in Nashville, Tennessee, (Facebook audience estimate: 1,300 people) with a misleading ad, it’s unlikely anyone other than the bikers will ever see those ads. Yesterday, 10 months after Trump was elected, Facebook officials acknowledged discovering that a Russian “troll farm” paid $100,000 during the campaign to place political ads on issues such as gun rights and immigration, The Washington Post reported.

With online ads, “you can go as narrow as you want, as false as you want and there is no accountability,” said Craig Aaron, president and CEO of Free Press, a public interest media and technology advocacy group.

ProPublica wants to change that. Today we are launching a crowdsourcing tool that will gather political ads from Facebook, the biggest online platform for political discourse. We’re calling it the Political Ad Collector — or PAC, in a nod to the Political Action Committees that fund many of today’s political ads.

I’m not on Facebook often and never click on political whatevers–ads? I get my political news from newspapers.

But if you see this stuff on Facebook, connect with ProPublica and tell them. You’ll be helping all of us stay informed and de-trolled.

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