Facebook Reportedly Failed To Block Ads Of Death Threats To Election Workers
In this photo illustration a Facebook logo seen displayed on a smartphone screen on a desk next to a Macbook in Athens, Greece on November 14, 2022.
Nikolas Kokovlis/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Facebook failed to block 15 out of 20 ads that contained death threats to election workers, according to a test conducted by researchers.

The probe by Global Witness and New York University’s Cybersecurity for Democracy team discovered that three-fourths of the ads submitted on the day of or the day before the November 8 midterm elections were approved.

“We tested the ability of Meta’s Facebook, Google’s YouTube, and TikTok to enforce their own policies on harmful content,” Global Witness reported.

“We did this by identifying 10 of the worst examples of death threats issued against election workers in the US and then submitting them to the three platforms in the form of advertisements and recording whether the platforms accepted them for publication or not,” it added.

The tests included 10 English-language death threats and 10 similar ads in Spanish. Nine of the English threats and six of the Spanish ads were approved. The research account was not shut down on Facebook.

Global Witness reportedly contacted Facebook’s parent company, Meta, for comment.

“This is a small sample of ads that are not representative of what people see on our platforms,” a Meta spokesperson told the group. “Content that incites violence against election workers or anyone else has no place on our apps and recent reporting has made clear that Meta’s ability to deal with these issues effectively exceeds that of other platforms. We remain committed to continuing to improve our systems.”

According to Global Witness, both TikTok and YouTube suspended the research accounts for policy violations.

The researchers found that despite more resources reportedly designed to detect threatening content, Facebook failed most real-life tests against blocking the ads.

The report comes as Google and YouTube announced a $13 million grant to fund global fact-checking projects on Tuesday. The social media platforms (both owned by parent company Alphabet) said they would provide financial support to the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), an arm of the Poynter Institute, to support “fact-checking initiatives” through 2025.

“The world needs fact-checking more than ever before. This partnership with Google and YouTube infuses financial support to global fact-checkers and is a step in the right direction,” said Baybars Örsek, the IFCN’s executive director.

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