NGO says Facebook failed to detect misinformation in Brazilian election ads

Less than two months before Brazil’s 2022 elections, a report by the international NGO found that Facebook’s parent company Meta “shockingly” failed to detect false political ads. The organization tested Facebook’s ability to catch election-related misinformation by submitting 10 ads.

Five of the ads contained apparently false information about the election. For example, some mentioned the wrong election date and the methods by which citizens could cast their ballots. The other five ads attempted to discredit Brazil’s electoral process, including the electronic voting system the country has been using since 1996. Of the 10 ads, Facebook initially rejected only one, but later approved it with no further action from Global Witness.

In addition to their content, the ads contained other red flags that Meta should have recognized from Global Witness. To begin with, the nonprofit did not verify the account they used to submit the ads about the company. “This is a security measure that Meta put in place to prevent election interference, but we were able to easily circumvent this,” Global Witness said.

In addition, the organization submitted the advertisements from London and Nairobi. It didn’t have to use a VPN or local payment system to disguise its identity. Additionally, the ads did not include a “paid for by” disclaimer, which Meta notes requires all “social themed” ads in Brazil to be included by June 22, 2022.

“It is very clear from the results of this and other research that their content moderation skills and the integrity systems they employ to mitigate some of the risk during election periods are simply not working,” said Jon Lloyd, Senior Advisor at Global Witness, .

Meta did not immediately respond to Engadget’s request for comment. A meta spokesman said The Associated Press she has “prepared extensively” for the forthcoming elections in Brazil. “We have implemented tools that promote reliable information and flag election-related posts, established a direct channel for the Supreme Electoral Court (Brazil’s electoral authority) to send us potentially harmful content for review, and continue to work closely with Brazilian authorities and researchers,” the company announced.

This isn’t the first time Global Witness has found Facebook’s election protections inadequate. Earlier this year, the nonprofit organization conducted a similar investigation and came to many of the same conclusions. Then as now, Global Witness challenged Meta to strengthen and expand its content moderation and integrity systems.

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