The concern about targeted ads, is not because they are targeted, but that allow slanted views and outright lies to go unchallenged in social media.
Julia Carrie Wang in The Guardian examined “The Dark Art of Political Ads.” She draws two important and general points.
Any candidate using Facebook can put a campaign message promising one thing in front of one group of voters while simultaneously running an ad with a completely opposite message in front of a different group of voters.
The ads themselves are not posted anywhere for the general public to see (this is what’s known as “dark advertising”), and chances are, no one will ever be the wiser.
- Ads can appear without obvious sponsorship.
- Extreme claims can be made that can’t be proven or tracked down. This can shift your perception of what is true or likely. They can change how you think about yourself (Harvard Business Review article).
- Propaganda. Facebook officials reported that they traced the ad sales, totaling $100,000, to a Russian “troll farm” with a history of pushing pro-Kremlin propaganda
- Ads disappear after viewing, allowing the grossest exaggerations to be denied by campaigns.
For the sake of elections based on information and not misinformation, dark advertising must be brought into the light.