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Coronavirus misinformation ads approved by Facebook

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Like other social media companies, Facebook has been fighting for years to prevent the spread of misinformation on its platforms. Experts have told CR that the company appears to be working hard to spread good information about the pandemic. For example, authoritative sources are actively pushed to the top of the results when you search for “Coronavirus” or “COVID-19”.

However, researchers and consumer advocates say the company should do better on coronavirus-related advertising – even if it weighs on the company’s immense revenues.

“Editorial review and curation would increase the overall price of ads if they had that kind of pre-screening staff,” said Joan Donovan, Harvard lecturer and disinformation researcher. “But the damage caused by not doing this can be fatal. This is a flaw in the overall design of your advertising system. “

Ads are especially sensitive because they can be interpreted to carry a company certificate of authenticity, say some experts. “When it comes to an ad that someone has paid for, you have every reason to believe it has been reviewed,” says Maréchal, Ranking Digital Rights’ policy analyst. “Why wouldn’t you believe it?”

Experts tell CR that Facebook should slow down its advertising machine in this crisis if Facebook cannot adequately screen ads before posting.

“In an ideal world, someone would place an ad on the Pennysaver – someone who understands the context and understands the consequences of having information like this presented through a targeted advertising system,” says Donovan.

UCLA’s Roberts agrees that any coronavirus-related ad should be viewed by a human before it is served.

“There is already a public responsibility for organic content,” says Roberts, co-director of the UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry. “But when it comes to lucrative monetized material that would not exist without this system. . . then I think that there is a higher moral and ethical burden. “

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