Facebook is failing to regulate foreign political ads in NL

It appears like Facebook is not keeping its promise regarding political transparency on its site, according Volkskrant. Last week, Facebook policy official Edo Haveman spoke to the Tweede Kamer about the methods his organisation is using to combat foreign political influence. “We have taken radical transparency measures for political advertisements,” he said. These measures allegedly have been implemented in 27 EU countries and ensure that political advertisements are restricted to country of origin. 

Bits of Freedom, a civil rights movement, decided to test out Facebook’s new technology. The organisation used a Dutch account to manufacture a German political party ad and target it to people living in Germany. This post reached about 2,000 people in Germany. They then used a German account to push and target a Dutch ad. Both ads were paid for by foreign accounts. This has motivated Bits of Freedom to argue that Facebook is not fulfilling its promises. “Facebook has not proven to be a reliable conversation partner,” Evelyn Austin of Bits of Freedom said to Nieuwsuur. “This time they even made promises in the Tweede Kamer. That means MPs were lied to.” 

Additionally, Facebook said it requires people to report their political advertisements. But Austin did not have to do that when she crafted the foreign ads. “You can also wonder whether parties that want to influence will report,” she said. “Those are parties that want to continue working under the radar. And Facebook makes that possible.” 

Dutch politicians from a variety of parties have spoken out against Facebook’s influence in political elections. PvdA leader Lodewijk Asscher said that democracy is at risk if targeted foreign ads continue to manipulate people. “I have already asked the cabinet to prevent this happening in the Netherlands,” he said, according to NLTimes. “They have promised to improve and time after time it turns out that it is worth nothing. Facebook speaks wonderful words and is not a threat to democracy.” 


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