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Facebook Bragged About Being Able To Influence Elections, Then Lied.

Ever since the Cambridge Analytica data breach, everyone has been calling for Mark Zuckerberg to testify in front of congress.  Zuckerberg has had a pretty bad week, even by billionaire standards. He lost $7 billion this week due to the data breach. But don’t feel too sorry for him, his net worth is still at a healthy $64.1 billion.  

When news first broke of the data breach, I felt bad for Zuckerberg, no one forces people to share their inner most secrets on Facebook, so when there is a leak like this, you have no-one to blame but yourself. Also, Facebook first came into this world as a hot or not for Zuckerberg and his Harvard friends to rate girls(yes, Facesmash did exist). We can’t blame Zuckerberg for not predicting that one day, eager agents at the Kremlin would use Facebook to influence elections. 

Or can we? 

Facebook’s website had an entire section devoted to touting the “success stories” of political campaigns that used the social network to influence electoral outcomes. This page has now mysteriously disappeared. Bragging about Facebook’s ability to influence elections in order to entice more advertisers does not look good especially as Zuckerberg maybe testifying in front of congress. 

Facebook’s “success stories” page is a monument to the company’s dominance of online advertising, it provides exact case studies of how individual companies used Facebook data to trump the competition(yes the pun was intended). “Case studies like these inspire and motivate us,” the page crows. Current examples include CoverGirl (“promoting a beauty brand makeover with video ads on Facebook and Instagram”) and Tropicana (“Facebook video ads elevate fruit juice brand awareness”). Not so controversial.

However, the case studies Facebook used to list from political campaigns included Facebook’s work with Florida’s Republican Gov. Rick Scott. They “used link ads and video ads to boost Hispanic voter turnout in their candidate’s successful bid for a second term, resulting in a 22% increase in Hispanic support and the majority of the Cuban vote.” Facebook’s work with the Scottish National Party, a political party in the U.K., was described as “triggering a landslide.”

In the past if you visited the success stories page, a drop down would give you the option for “Government and Politics”, this  option is no longer visible.  You can still find the case studies for  Scott campaign and SNP, but you need to use the direct urls. 

Asked about this change a Facebook spokesman said: “a number of the studies have been archived, but they’re still available at the individual links.” Asked why the “Government and Politics” section had been removed entirely, the spokesperson did not reply.

Don’t feel bad though, Zuckerberg has taken out full-page ads to say ‘sorry’. “This was a breach of trust, and I’m sorry we didn’t do more at the time. We’re now taking steps to ensure this doesn’t happen again,” read the ads appearing in the UK’s The Observer, The Sunday Times, Mail on Sunday, Sunday Mirror, Sunday Express and Sunday Telegraph, along with American newspapers The New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal.

 

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