Read Smarter Roundup #3: Facebook + Google Edition

1) Facebook and Google Helped Anti-Refugee Campaign in Swing States

One of the more troubling discoveries of the week — Facebook and Google both worked with Secure America Now (a conservative “nonprofit, advocacy group”), on a pretty intensely Islamaphobic campaign. A major element was the faux-tourism video below, “The Islamic State of France”:

What really jumps out from this Bloomberg piece was this wasn’t a case of shady actors on a self-serve platform. Facebook employees actually used this campaign to test vertical vs. square videos, and actually made a case study out of it!

Facebook’s collaboration with Secure America Now went beyond optimizing its ad reach, and included efforts to test new technology. In one instance, Facebook used the Secure America Now campaign to try out a vertical video format, which the Facebook reps were eager to see used on a large scale.
Working with Harris Media, Facebook devised a case study last year to compare the popularity of the new format to others. The video they used was “Are We Safe?”, which contrasts colorful scenes of Main Street America with black-and-white pictures of Muslims who have carried out attacks in the U.S. Facebook tested 12 different versions of the video. It then followed up with a survey of users who had viewed the video to see which format was most popular. (Square videos, it turned out.)

2) Google Serves Fake News Ads in an Unlikely Place: Fact-Checking Sites

Perhaps we’ve finally found an issue that engenders bipartisanship: John McCain and two Democratic Senators will try to force Facebook, Google et al to disclose who is purchasing online political advertising.

Of note: A lobbyist, Marc E. Elias, helped Facebook and Google receive exemptions from existing Federal Election Commission disclosure rules a few years back, and now, his law firm, Perkins Coie, is helping both firms navigate their current Russian ad troubles.

3) What Facebook and Google Can Learn From the First Major News Hoax

Derek Thompson of the Atlantic covers one of my favorite fake news historical stories. In 1835 the New York Sun wrote six installments, clocking in at 17,000 words, about an alien race of Bat People, who lived on the moon.

Also, from Tim Wu’s The Attention Merchants:

Certainly they were like human beings, for their wings had now disappeared, and their attitude in walking was both erect and dignified….They averaged four feet in height, were covered, except on the face, with short and glossy copper-coloured hair, and had wings composed of a thin membrane, without hair, lying snugly upon their backs. We scientifically denominated them as Vespertilio-homo, or man-bat; and they are doubtless innocent and happy creatures, notwithstanding that some of their amusements would but ill comport with our terrestrial notions of decorum.

4) Google Serves Fake News Ads in an Unlikely Place: Fact-Checking Sites

In a reminder that irony is not dead, fake news ads are still showing up via Google’s ad network — on fact-checking sites like Politifact and Snopes.

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