Facebook, TikTok, and YouTube have been called out for failing to block paid advertisements spreading misinformation about voting in the 2022 midterm elections. A new report from the human rights non-profit Global Witness and the Cybersecurity for Democracy (C4D) Team at New York University found that all three platforms allowed ads containing false information to be published with no issue.
Global Witness created dummy accounts on Facebook, TikTok, and YouTube and attempted to run ten identical advertisements on each platform in both English and Spanish. Each ad contained “outright false and misleading election misinformation.” These ads contained falsehoods such as telling voters they needed to be vaccinated to vote in person or that voters would need to vote twice so that their votes would count. Other ads simply provided the wrong date for people to vote. The ads targeted voters in Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania – all battleground states.
After going through the process of attempting to run these ads, Global Witness found that Facebook approved all ten of them within minutes, while TikTok only approved nine out of ten. YouTube also approved all ten ads.
This failure to properly vet and block ads containing misinformation is concerning, especially given the fact that social media platforms have been under increased scrutiny for their role in spreading false information. In the lead-up to the 2020 US presidential election, Facebook was criticized for allowing politicians to run ads with false information, and more recently, TikTok has been accused of censoring content that doesn’t fit the Chinese government’s narrative.
It’s clear that social media platforms need to do more to ensure that ads containing false information are not being published on their platforms. With the 2022 midterm elections fast approaching, it’s imperative that Facebook, TikTok, and YouTube take steps to prevent their platforms from being used to spread misinformation and confusion about the voting process.
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