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Old 2nd November 2019, 08:45 AM   #1
phiwum
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Political ads on social media

Twitter has ended political ads on their site, while Facebook denies that they should fact check political ads. Let the voters see the ads and decide for themselves, they say.

I understand Facebook's unease with being the fact checker in this day and age, where a large number of the voters reject any fact checking that contradicts their preferred belief. On the other hand, as an article on WaPo suggests (by Weintraub, head of the FEC), the problem is that these ads are microtargeted, so that independent sources cannot fact check and so that users have no idea whether their candidate is telling another group of users something completely different than what they're being told. Back before such targeted advertising, candidates' messages were more transparent (though I suppose that they could mail different messages to different areas, this was at least a smaller issue).

Weintraub's solution is to ban microtargeting for political ads. Ads could be restricted to broad geographic areas, counties, say, but not to groups defined by any other data (such as political affiliation, income, sports team preferences, etc.). I think that's a pretty reasonable idea, though it would certainly make even legitimate advertising less effective (non-micro-targeted advertising would presumably be much less expensive, so the burden wouldn't be so onerous for the campaigns).

Another option I think is reasonable is this: allow the campaigns to use micro-targeting, but require that each and every political ad be publicly available at the same time. There would be a page on Facebook showing every political ad pushed to any user on Facebook. This would probably be a bit less effective in deterring misleading advertising than Weintraub's proposal, since those who fall for misleading advertising are unlikely to see such a page or read about controversies involving their candidates, but it would add some transparency while still leaving the benefits of targeted advertising.

I suppose it's not clear to me which ads count as political ads, but I presume that there is some sort of standard for that determination. You'd like it to include ads from pacs not officially associated with a campaign, of course.

These are just my half-thoughts on the issue. I don't know much about targeted ads, so comments welcome.
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Old 2nd November 2019, 09:30 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by phiwum View Post
I understand Facebook's unease with being the fact checker in this day and age, where a large number of the voters reject any fact checking that contradicts their preferred belief.
I think the big problem is that this necessarily includes the voters at Facebook who will be doing the fact-checking. An open platform where anyone can publish, and anyone else can publish a fact-check of the first publication, is very different from a platform where the people who are controlling publication are also controlling fact-checking.
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Old 2nd November 2019, 09:43 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
I think the big problem is that this necessarily includes the voters at Facebook who will be doing the fact-checking. An open platform where anyone can publish, and anyone else can publish a fact-check of the first publication, is very different from a platform where the people who are controlling publication are also controlling fact-checking.
It would be difficult for a social media company to do fact checking without being accused of bias, no doubt.
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Old 2nd November 2019, 12:13 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by phiwum View Post
Facebook denies that they should fact check political ads.

Unless you're a gubernatorial candidate deliberately running false ads to draw attention to their policy. Then they'll ban your ads.

Quote:
A San Francisco man tried to call out Facebook's controversial false ads policy by running false ads of his own. Now the company is barring him from doing so — and the man told CNN Business he's now considering legal action.

Adriel Hampton, a political activist, registered as a candidate for California's 2022 gubernatorial election on Monday so he could take advantage of Facebook's policy allowing politicians and political candidates to run false ads on the platform.

On Tuesday evening, a Facebook (FB) spokesperson told CNN Business, "This person has made clear he registered as a candidate to get around our policies, so his content, including ads, will continue to be eligible for third-party fact-checking."

Ads from people and groups other than politicians are subject to fact-checking.

Hampton had pulled the stunt with the hope of forcing the company to change its policy and stop allowing politicians to run false ads.
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Old 2nd November 2019, 12:15 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by phiwum View Post
It would be difficult for a social media company to do fact checking without being accused of bias, no doubt.
It would be difficult to do fact checking without having bias. Which is why it's probably a bad idea for the people controlling publication to be the same people that do the fact checking.
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Old 2nd November 2019, 12:27 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by phiwum View Post
(non-micro-targeted advertising would presumably be much less expensive, so the burden wouldn't be so onerous for the campaigns).
I don't think this is true. Targeting is generally going to be more expensive on a per-view basis, but the more targeted your ads are, the fewer views you need. The entire point of doing targeting is to lower the advertiser's total cost. If it didn't save advertisers money compared to untargeted ads, they wouldn't bother doing it.

Platforms like Facebook offer microtargeting because they're competing against other platforms that provide advertising. The cheaper their ads are, the more competitive they are.
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Old 2nd November 2019, 12:38 PM   #7
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What is wrong with people that they pay attention to --much less believe-- advertisements at all, much less political ones, much less ones on "social media"? This is incomprehensible.
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Old 2nd November 2019, 12:42 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by TragicMonkey View Post
What is wrong with people that they pay attention to --much less believe-- advertisements at all, much less political ones, much less ones on "social media"? This is incomprehensible.
Incomprehensibility aside, consider this: Whatever is wrong with people in general, it's also what's wrong with the folks at Facebook who would be controlling what other people can say.
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Old 2nd November 2019, 01:14 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Ziggurat View Post
I don't think this is true. Targeting is generally going to be more expensive on a per-view basis, but the more targeted your ads are, the fewer views you need. The entire point of doing targeting is to lower the advertiser's total cost. If it didn't save advertisers money compared to untargeted ads, they wouldn't bother doing it.

Platforms like Facebook offer microtargeting because they're competing against other platforms that provide advertising. The cheaper their ads are, the more competitive they are.
You may be right about the costs. Makes sense anyway.
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Old 2nd November 2019, 01:17 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Incomprehensibility aside, consider this: Whatever is wrong with people in general, it's also what's wrong with the folks at Facebook who would be controlling what other people can say.
Right, but this thread isn't about Facebook factchecking ads. It is about alternative proposals to diminish the effect of dishonest political advertising. Do you have any opinion about Weintraub's proposal that political advertising should not be done using microtargeting?
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Old 2nd November 2019, 01:27 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by TragicMonkey View Post
What is wrong with people that they pay attention to --much less believe-- advertisements at all, much less political ones, much less ones on "social media"? This is incomprehensible.
Having worked a tad in the field, I know that good ads on social media don’t look like ads. They look like something Uncle Bob or Cousin Karen just shared. Or maybe they look like a game or a poll. “Which Presidential Candidate are you voting for? We can guess with only 3 questions!” Or they are the ever popular listicles.
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Old 2nd November 2019, 01:28 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by phiwum View Post
Right, but this thread isn't about Facebook factchecking ads. It is about alternative proposals to diminish the effect of dishonest political advertising. Do you have any opinion about Weintraub's proposal that political advertising should not be done using microtargeting?
I can see the appeal of the idea, but I don't think it's a good thing overall. The problem I see is basically the same problem that most efforts at campaign finance reform run into: it creates barriers to entry, and so makes it harder for challengers to compete against incumbents.

As I mentioned before, targeted advertising is cheaper because it's more efficient. If you're challenging a political incumbent, you're almost certain to have a lot less money than them. So to compete, you need to get your message out as efficiently as possible.

Now you might argue that the incumbent will have the same benefit of increased efficiency if you allow for microtargeting, but they'll be able to do even more of it. And that's true. But I don't think it invalidates this point. There have been lots and lots of studies which show that money matters less in politics than most people think. And there are lots of examples of the better-funded candidate loosing. The reason is that regardless of how much advertising you do, your ideas still need to appeal to voters, and if they don't appeal to voters, then more advertising of those ideas won't help.

But that doesn't mean money is irrelevant, only that it has rapidly diminishing returns past a certain point. Even if your ideas are highly attractive to voters, you still need to get that message out to voters to begin with or they won't vote for you. There is effectively a minimum amount of money you need to run a successful political campaign. Beyond that, more money matters less and less. If you've got huge amounts of money, being able to microtarget is a small benefit, because you can reach most voters even without it. But if you can't reach that minimum, then voters who would vote for you if they knew you won't vote for you because they don't. If you ban microtargeting, you raise what that minimum is. That helps entrench established politicians, and overall I think that's a bad thing.
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Old 2nd November 2019, 01:40 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Ziggurat View Post
I can see the appeal of the idea, but I don't think it's a good thing overall. The problem I see is basically the same problem that most efforts at campaign finance reform run into: it creates barriers to entry, and so makes it harder for challengers to compete against incumbents.

As I mentioned before, targeted advertising is cheaper because it's more efficient. If you're challenging a political incumbent, you're almost certain to have a lot less money than them. So to compete, you need to get your message out as efficiently as possible.

Now you might argue that the incumbent will have the same benefit of increased efficiency if you allow for microtargeting, but they'll be able to do even more of it. And that's true. But I don't think it invalidates this point. There have been lots and lots of studies which show that money matters less in politics than most people think. And there are lots of examples of the better-funded candidate loosing. The reason is that regardless of how much advertising you do, your ideas still need to appeal to voters, and if they don't appeal to voters, then more advertising of those ideas won't help.

But that doesn't mean money is irrelevant, only that it has rapidly diminishing returns past a certain point. Even if your ideas are highly attractive to voters, you still need to get that message out to voters to begin with or they won't vote for you. There is effectively a minimum amount of money you need to run a successful political campaign. Beyond that, more money matters less and less. If you've got huge amounts of money, being able to microtarget is a small benefit, because you can reach most voters even without it. But if you can't reach that minimum, then voters who would vote for you if they knew you won't vote for you because they don't. If you ban microtargeting, you raise what that minimum is. That helps entrench established politicians, and overall I think that's a bad thing.
My suggestion was to allow for microtargeted ads with the proviso that such ads be publicly available. Unfortunately, the proviso would incur some costs (views are paid for by somebody), though it's not clear how much. A single page showing all ads for each candidate would not get all that many hits and the cost to Facebook would likely be trivial, but I'm just guessing here.

Frankly, Facebook would get what they really want from such a page: more data on its users, which could be sold to the candidates once again. Meanwhile, candidates could not hide their lies or hidden positions using microtargeting, because all their microtargeted ads would be available to the public at large.
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Old 2nd November 2019, 02:21 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by phiwum View Post
Right, but this thread isn't about Facebook factchecking ads. It is about alternative proposals to diminish the effect of dishonest political advertising. Do you have any opinion about Weintraub's proposal that political advertising should not be done using microtargeting?
Depends a great deal on what level of microtargeting you're talking about. Would congressional candidates from New Jersey be able to have ads only go to residents of the Garden State? Or to people in their districts? It's awfully inefficient otherwise.
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Old 2nd November 2019, 02:28 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by TragicMonkey View Post
What is wrong with people that they pay attention to --much less believe-- advertisements at all, much less political ones, much less ones on "social media"? This is incomprehensible.
It has nothing to do with believing it. If the ad says something you like, then it must be true!
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Old 2nd November 2019, 02:37 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
It would be difficult to do fact checking without having bias. Which is why it's probably a bad idea for the people controlling publication to be the same people that do the fact checking.
Facts aren't biased. As long as the fact checker only looks at the facts and if a statement is true, false, partially true, or indeterminable, and stays away from interpretation, then there is no need for bias.
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Old 2nd November 2019, 03:17 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by PhantomWolf View Post
Facts aren't biased. As long as the fact checker only looks at the facts and if a statement is true, false, partially true, or indeterminable, and stays away from interpretation, then there is no need for bias.
First off, time and time again we see that fact checkers don't stick to purely factual questions. Second, which statements you decide to fact check is itself subject to bias.
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Old 2nd November 2019, 03:46 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Ziggurat View Post
First off, time and time again we see that fact checkers don't stick to purely factual questions. Second, which statements you decide to fact check is itself subject to bias.
In this case it'd be fact checking to see if an ad was able to be run and so there is no need to go beyond is a fact true, partially true, false, or indeterminate. Secondly, you'd fact check every statement in the ad.

There aren't difficult concepts.
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Old 2nd November 2019, 03:52 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by PhantomWolf View Post
In this case it'd be fact checking to see if an ad was able to be run and so there is no need to go beyond is a fact true, partially true, false, or indeterminate. Secondly, you'd fact check every statement in the ad.

There aren't difficult concepts.
Sure, that's not a difficult concept, but it doesn't ever seem to work out that way. Fact check organizations keep failing at their nominal mission.
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Old 2nd November 2019, 03:58 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by Ziggurat View Post
Sure, that's not a difficult concept, but it doesn't ever seem to work out that way. Fact check organizations keep failing at their nominal mission.
I tend to find that it's less that the organisations keep failing, it's that people hate those organizations for refusing to accept their favourite conspiracy theories as true.
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Old 2nd November 2019, 04:05 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by PhantomWolf View Post
I tend to find that it's less that the organisations keep failing, it's that people hate those organizations for refusing to accept their favourite conspiracy theories as true.

A number of years ago someone on the blog portion of a local newspaper's website repeated the claim that President Obama had made a speech that was the first time that a President had ever given an address without US flags in the background. When I posted a link to the Snopes article about it that included photos of the previous 4 or 5 Presidents giving similar addresses without flags, he angrily dismissed it, claiming Snopes was a left-wing propaganda site funded by George Soros.
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Old 2nd November 2019, 04:08 PM   #22
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I think this is the best thread to post this in:

We have entered the newest phase. First it was newspapers, then radio, then TV and now social media. With each phase the impact on governments shifted.

Upton Sinclair wrote The Brass Check, a fascinating exposé of the political power of the press in quashing various forms of socialism with things like stories of salacious scandals which at the time could sink a reporter. Behind the scenes, who owned the press controlled a lot, from other voices to politics. In the Brass Check it is autobiographical. Sinclair, himself, was blocked from publishing because of his politics. He did eventually get published and his work was best seller work.

That is incredibly relevant when you look at the power Zuckerberg has today. Trump thinks Bezos controls the day to day news of the WA Po. I don't know if he does or not. I suspect, not, but certainly the fact he owns that resource has implications.

The media has never stopped being influential, it has matured. The key here being that the owners often have too much power to influence/control people's beliefs.
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Old 2nd November 2019, 06:48 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by Brainster View Post
Depends a great deal on what level of microtargeting you're talking about. Would congressional candidates from New Jersey be able to have ads only go to residents of the Garden State? Or to people in their districts? It's awfully inefficient otherwise.
Weintraub suggests county-level specification. Perhaps district-level would make more sense, though I don't know how precisely Facebook can pinpoint a user (and hence county-level may also be difficult).

I'll be Facebook knows quite a bit about the location of its user.
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Old 2nd November 2019, 06:57 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by PhantomWolf View Post
Facts aren't biased. As long as the fact checker only looks at the facts and if a statement is true, false, partially true, or indeterminable, and stays away from interpretation, then there is no need for bias.

"Facts" vs facts.

2 + 2 = 4 is a fact that is hard to dispute.

Political talk is not so simple and I believe bias get's in the way of facts all the time. ISF is a great example. We don't all agree on anything, except maybe 2 + 2. Oh and how to interpret the 2nd Amendment. What is it a couple of sentences? So simple. Of course we all agree on that

Which facts do we believe? The ones from MSNBC or CNN? "Sure health care costs the US this much if you look at it that way! But my numbers say different!"

I don't want anyone to even attempt to censor what I hear or think for me - which is why I don't do Facebook. If I was Zuck I'd tell everyone to piss off. I'm not checking jack squat.
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Old 2nd November 2019, 07:10 PM   #25
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One of the motivations of this thread was to discuss solutions that don't involve Facebook factchecking doodlysquat. There are problems with factchecking. Weintraub made a concrete suggestion. I made another, though of course I'm not comparing my own deep expertise with that of the head of the FEC, and I'm sure others can make their own suggestions.

I take it for granted that Facebook won't begin factchecking on their own and I don't see any way they can be forced to do so.
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Old 3rd November 2019, 01:07 AM   #26
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An idea that occurred to me is that Facebook could send copies of all political ads to independent fact-checkers.

I don't know if that's really a solution, but at least it would mean that someone can fact check them independently.
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Old 3rd November 2019, 03:16 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by mgidm86 View Post
"Facts" vs facts.

2 + 2 = 4 is a fact that is hard to dispute.

Political talk is not so simple and I believe bias get's in the way of facts all the time. ISF is a great example. We don't all agree on anything, except maybe 2 + 2. Oh and how to interpret the 2nd Amendment. What is it a couple of sentences? So simple. Of course we all agree on that

Which facts do we believe? The ones from MSNBC or CNN? "Sure health care costs the US this much if you look at it that way! But my numbers say different!"

I don't want anyone to even attempt to censor what I hear or think for me - which is why I don't do Facebook. If I was Zuck I'd tell everyone to piss off. I'm not checking jack squat.
You are confusing facts with interpretation, something you actually noted yourself.

Everyone is entitled to his own opinions, but not his own facts

Facts are true regardless of if they are on MSNBC, CNN, or FOX News, the interpretation of those facts might change, but the facts will not.
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Old 3rd November 2019, 06:02 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by phiwum View Post
One of the motivations of this thread was to discuss solutions that don't involve Facebook factchecking doodlysquat. There are problems with factchecking. Weintraub made a concrete suggestion. I made another, though of course I'm not comparing my own deep expertise with that of the head of the FEC, and I'm sure others can make their own suggestions.

I take it for granted that Facebook won't begin factchecking on their own and I don't see any way they can be forced to do so.
I would suggest taking it for granted that any solution Facebook implements will be compromised from the start. Assuming they even bother and not just lie about doing it in the first place.
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Old 3rd November 2019, 12:08 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by TragicMonkey View Post
What is wrong with people that they pay attention to --much less believe-- advertisements at all, much less political ones, much less ones on "social media"? This is incomprehensible.
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Old 3rd November 2019, 12:40 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by mgidm86 View Post
"Facts" vs facts.

2 + 2 = 4 is a fact that is hard to dispute.

Political talk is not so simple and I believe bias get's in the way of facts all the time. ISF is a great example. We don't all agree on anything, except maybe 2 + 2. Oh and how to interpret the 2nd Amendment. What is it a couple of sentences? So simple. Of course we all agree on that

Which facts do we believe? The ones from MSNBC or CNN? "Sure health care costs the US this much if you look at it that way! But my numbers say different!"

I don't want anyone to even attempt to censor what I hear or think for me - which is why I don't do Facebook. If I was Zuck I'd tell everyone to piss off. I'm not checking jack squat.
Originally Posted by PhantomWolf View Post
You are confusing facts with interpretation, something you actually noted yourself.

Everyone is entitled to his own opinions, but not his own facts

Facts are true regardless of if they are on MSNBC, CNN, or FOX News, the interpretation of those facts might change, but the facts will not.
This is such a joke. Actual facts don't change.

I understand your position on Facebook. I get it MGIDM

You support a President and a party whose lifeblood is lies and deception. Selling Donald Trump based on the truth is something they and you don't want to have to do.
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Old 4th November 2019, 04:46 AM   #31
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Originally Posted by Ziggurat View Post
Sure, that's not a difficult concept, but it doesn't ever seem to work out that way. Fact check organizations keep failing at their nominal mission.
Evidence that is a fundamental problem with fact checking?
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Old 4th November 2019, 09:01 AM   #32
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post
Evidence that is a fundamental problem with fact checking?
That wasn't my claim, and I don't know what you consider "fundamental". And it's probably a fundamental problem with human nature, if you get right down to it. But fundamental or not, it keeps happening.
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Old 4th November 2019, 09:30 AM   #33
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Originally Posted by PhantomWolf View Post
Facts aren't biased. As long as the fact checker only looks at the facts and if a statement is true, false, partially true, or indeterminable, and stays away from interpretation, then there is no need for bias.
But some facts are 'complicated'. A common trick in British politics is to point out that, say, our underpaid nurses have just got a 5% pay rise. The figure might be correct, but that pay rise turns out to be spread over 3 years.

So, is the electioneering claim "We will give [or gave] our nurses a 5% pay rise" true or not if stated unconditionally?

For once, I don't blame Facebook.
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Old 4th November 2019, 10:26 AM   #34
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that is why actual factcheckers give their sources.
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Old 4th November 2019, 10:34 AM   #35
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Originally Posted by Puppycow View Post
An idea that occurred to me is that Facebook could send copies of all political ads to independent fact-checkers.

I don't know if that's really a solution, but at least it would mean that someone can fact check them independently.
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Old 4th November 2019, 11:01 AM   #36
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Originally Posted by The Great Zaganza View Post
that is why actual factcheckers give their sources.
But the 5% pay rise is a fact. What should happen to the ad if placed on social media? Should it be edited by FB (say) to add the 'over 3 years' part?
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Old 4th November 2019, 11:03 AM   #37
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Originally Posted by GlennB View Post
But the 5% pay rise is a fact. What should happen to the ad if placed on social media? Should it be edited by FB (say) to add the 'over 3 years' part?
it should link the source.
Beyond that, it gets tricky.

The only way to continually improve fact-checking is to keep it transparent.
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Old 4th November 2019, 11:10 AM   #38
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I do facebook ad fact checking all the time. Some friend or relative will share an ad and if it contains falsehoods, I call it out. This works for all ads.

Of course, this makes me the *******.
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Old 4th November 2019, 11:13 AM   #39
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Originally Posted by mgidm86 View Post
"Facts" vs facts.

2 + 2 = 4 is a fact that is hard to dispute.

Political talk is not so simple and I believe bias get's in the way of facts all the time. ISF is a great example. We don't all agree on anything, except maybe 2 + 2. Oh and how to interpret the 2nd Amendment. What is it a couple of sentences? So simple. Of course we all agree on that

Which facts do we believe? The ones from MSNBC or CNN? "Sure health care costs the US this much if you look at it that way! But my numbers say different!"

I don't want anyone to even attempt to censor what I hear or think for me - which is why I don't do Facebook. If I was Zuck I'd tell everyone to piss off. I'm not checking jack squat.
He's fighting a fight against politicians who will hurt facebook if facebook doesn't silence opposition under arguments of fake or hate speech.

This isn't supposed to happen in the US with the First Amendment. A company is not bound by it, but government twisting arms is forbidden, too.
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Old 4th November 2019, 11:36 AM   #40
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Originally Posted by Beerina View Post
He's fighting a fight against politicians who will hurt facebook if facebook doesn't silence opposition under arguments of fake or hate speech.

This isn't supposed to happen in the US with the First Amendment. A company is not bound by it, but government twisting arms is forbidden, too.
Putting restrictions on political advertising is surely within the purview of legislators. Isn't that why ads must say that so and so approves the message?

I agree that no law should single out Facebook. I don't agree that this is the only way to address lies in targeted political ads.
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