No One is Tracking the Illegal Political Ads in Your Facebook Feed

Experts say it's become impossible to distinguish political advocacy from advertising on the site.

by Alex Thompson and Noah Kulwin
Sep 26 2017, 12:27am

The "Trump 2020" Facebook page launched on Nov. 10, 2016, two days after the presidential election. With a few thousand dollars in paid promotion and savvy management, the page grew fast, to 360,000 likes in less than a year. The page's owner, who identified himself as a Wisconsin businessman but declined to be named, told VICE News that he launched nine more pro-Trump pages, amassing a combined 1,758,173 likes. The man has paid Facebook $34,100 since November to promote these pages, according to receipts shown to VICE News.

Pages like "Trump 2020," which are set up by people outside of campaigns or political groups, have become an increasingly common and powerful advocacy tool. But the operators of these pages may also be violating elections law, according to campaign finance watchdogs.

On Facebook and other digital platforms, no one—not Facebook or the Federal Elections Commission (FEC)— vets political content that's backed by advertising dollars. This, experts warn, has turned Facebook into a vast, opaque, and unmonitored world where political advocacy has become hard to distinguish from political advertising.

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