The federal government has strict disclosure requirements for political ads on television, radio, and print, but the internet remains the wild west for political content. In 2016, campaigns, super-PACs, dark money groups, and Russia were able to purchase ads without disclosing to viewers where they were coming from. So last year, in an attempt to head off scrutiny form Washington, Facebook announced two new policies. First, ads for candidates and political issues would now carry a disclaimer at the top, stating who paid for the ad. Second, clicking on that disclaimer would direct viewers to a new “ad library,” where they could see who else had viewed the ad by state, age, and gender.
But Facebook left a gaping loophole in this system: If a user shares a political ad, the disclaimer disappears for anyone who sees the shared ad, as does the ability to click through it to the ad library. Civil rights and election security experts have warned Facebook that this loophole is ripe for abuse. Several experts on campaign finance expressed surprise when Mother Jones asked them about it, and concern that this loophole could lead to viral, misleading content paid for by undisclosed political actors.
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