Majority of divisive Facebook ads bought by ‘suspicious groups’
WASHINGTON: Most of the political ads about divisive issues that ran on Facebook before the 2016 U.S. presidential election were sponsored by “suspicious groups” with no publicly available information about them, according to a study released on Monday and based on a database of five million ads on Facebook.
One in six of those groups was linked to Russia, according to a University of Wisconsin-Madison study here, and the identities of the rest of the 122 groups that are labeled “suspicious” are still unknown, an indication of the influence of “astroturf” or shell companies in U.S. politics.
Over a quarter of the suspicious ads mentioned Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, two of the presidential candidates in the election, and 9 percent expressly advocated for or against individual candidates.
The researchers labeled suspicious ad-buyers as groups with pages that have been inactive, inaccessible, removed or banned by Facebook since the election and there was no information available publicly about them.
Project DATA, the research team, also found that voters were also disproportionately targeted in swing states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania with ads that focused on issues like guns, immigration and race relations.