There has been a continued fight against disinformation and misinformation being spread on Facebook but now, the Mark Zuckerberg-owned platform has one tool that could be used to make spreading disinformation and misinformation even easier.
Facebook has a tool for advertisers that lets them change the displayed headline for news stories. This is such a huge loop as headlines for news articles could be manipulated to spread disinformation and since the website is linked is from a trusted news source, users on Facebook would take their word for it when the post is run as an ad.
Unintentionally = misinformation
Intentionally = disinformation
— MediaMaven (@mediadissector) September 12, 2019
How it works is that when you place an ad on Facebook, advertisers get the option of including a link to a website and bad actors could include a link to a news article. The real headline the article has is automatically filled into the ad copy ut Facebook also allows advertisers to change the headline and rewrite it to whatever message they want to portray.
The original link will still appear in the ad and users will have the impression that the article’s headline is a legit one.
A recent incident happened when a BBC article was manipulated this way when the UK Conservative party ran an ad to give the UK government a good name.
The ad had the title, “£14 billion pound cash boost for schools” when the real headline title was “School spending: Multi-billion pound cash boost announced”
A Conservative Party Facebook ad seems to have altered the headline of a BBC News article so that it claims there will be a "£14 billion pound cash boost for schools".https://t.co/x01MlmEPis
— Full Fact (@FullFact) September 13, 2019
The political party ran 5 different versions of the ad that reached close to 222,000 to 510,000 British people.
“Describing this as a £14bn increase would make the government seem more generous than it is, in fact, being”, Robert Cuffe, BBC head of statistics said concerning the misleading ad.
What Facebook is doing:
Facebook is already aware of this loop an is working on rolling out changes.
Speaking to CBC News, a Facebook spokesperson said that they are working to put additional safeguards in place by the end of the year to make sure advertisers don’t misuse this tool.