Facebook bans 'brainwashing' advertising firm but isn't doing enough about political lies

  • A service claiming to be able to brainwash people into making life changes using social media micro-targeting has been banned by Facebook.

    Facebook has been in the news a lot over the past few years for major data privacy breaches and its controversial stance permitting advertisers to influence global political campaigns around the world. The company has been under the microscope since the revelation that it helped advertising micro-targeting firm Cambridge Analytica as it influenced a US Presidential election and the UK Brexit referrendum.

    Though Facebook was fined a record $5bn by the US Federal Trade Commission and £500k by the UK Information Commissioner's Office for its role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal and breaches of data privacy laws, it recently confirmed that it would not be changing its stance regarding permitting politically-motivated advertising designed to influence elections.

    The issue has come back into the forefront again this week when Facebook decided to block Isreali startup The Spinner that seemed to be using the same micro-targetting strategies used by Cambridge Analytica but for a bizarre and non-political purpose. The company promises to target a specific individual the customer wants and advertise content to them that's designed to subtly change their mind or convince them to do something.

    The 'brainwashing' style service will insert fake editorial content and list articles on topics ranging from quitting smoking or proposing marraige to losing weight or initating sex with their partner. The idea is that the advertising could subconsciously change the target's mind by continually exposing them to the same idea, whether they click on them or not.

    Facebook sent the company a cease and desist letter and banned its CEO from using Facebook or Instragram for any reason, claiming that the Spinner "uses fake accounts and fake Facebook Pages to 'strategically bombard' Facebook users with advertisements," and that this violates Facebook's advertising policies.

    This move comes just days after Washington Post reported that Facebook doesn't seem to be changing its stance on permitting political groups to post misleading advertisements. The company reportedly plans to introduce new tools to let users block advertisements from certain campaigns and has released a new policy on deepfake videos on the platform, but it may not be enough. Both Google and Twitter have adopted new stricter policies on political advertising to combat the problem.

    Source: BBC News, Washington Post

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    Brendan is a Sync NI writer with a special interest in the gaming sector, programming, emerging technology, and physics. To connect with Brendan, feel free to send him an email or follow him on Twitter.

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