Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Political Ads on Social Media Rife with Misinformation and Scams, New Research Finds
gvw_ap_news
By Associated Press
Published 1 week ago on
July 10, 2024

Political ads on social media are becoming a hotbed for misinformation and scams, according to a recent study from Syracuse University. (AP File)

Share

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

WASHINGTON — The online advertisement to Donald Trump supporters was clear enough: Click here, and receive a free Trump 2024 flag and a commemorative coin. All in exchange for taking a quick survey and providing a credit card number for the $5 shipping and handling.

“You’ll get two free gifts just by taking this quick poll in support of Trump,” says the ad’s narrator.

The ad — which has appeared on Facebook, YouTube and other platforms — didn’t mention the $80 charge that would later appear on credit card statements. Those that clicked were scammed.

Political Advertisements: A Prime Source for Misleading Information

Political advertisements on social media are one of the best ways for candidates to reach supporters and raise campaign cash. But as a new report from Syracuse University shows, weak regulations governing online ads and haphazard enforcement by tech companies also make ads a prime source for misleading information about elections — and a tantalizingly easy way for con artists to target victims.

“There is very little regulation on the platforms,” said Jennifer Stromer-Galley, the professor who led the research for the ElectionGraph Project at Syracuse University’s Institute for Democracy, Journalism & Citizenship. “It leaves the American public vulnerable to misinformation, disinformation and propaganda.”

Research Findings on Political Ads

Stromer’s research examined more than 2,200 groups on Facebook or Instagram that ran ads between September and May mentioning one of the presidential candidates. Combined, the ads cost nearly $19 million and were seen more than 1 billion times.

Data connected to the ads (and made public by Meta, Facebook’s owner) shows that both right- and left-leaning ads targeted older voters more than younger ones. Right-leaning ads were more likely to target men, progressive ads were more likely to target women.

Overall, conservative-leaning organizations bought more ads than progressive-leaning groups. Immigration was the top issue raised in right-leaning ads while the economy dominated progressive ads.

Many of the ads contained misleading information, or deepfake video and audio of celebrities supposedly crying during a speech by former First Lady Melania Trump. Stromer-Galley noted that falsehoods in ads about urban crime and immigration were especially common.

Scams and Misinformation on Social Media

While most of the groups paying for the ads are legitimate, others seemed more interested in getting a user’s personal financial data than boosting any particular candidate. Using a partnership with the data science firm Neo4j, Stromer-Galley found that some of the pages shared common creators, or ran virtually identical ads. When one page disappeared — perhaps removed by Facebook moderators — another would pop up quickly to take its place.

Many of the pages sold Trump-related merchandise such as flags, hats, banners and coins or advertised fictitious investment schemes. The true motive, apparently, was to get a user’s credit card information.

The ads promising a free Trump flag were placed by a group called Liberty Defender Group. Emails sent to several addresses listed for the company were not returned, and a phone number for a company representative could not be found. One website associated with the group has moved on from politics, and is now selling devices which claim to improve home energy efficiency.

Meta removed most of the network’s ads and pages earlier this year after researchers noticed their activity, but the ads are still visible on other platforms. The company says it prohibits scams or content that could interfere with the operation of an election and removes ads that violate the rules. In addition, the company urges its users not to click on suspicious links, or to hand over personal information to untrustworthy sources.

“Don’t answer messages asking for your password, social security number, or credit card information,” the company said.

The Trump campaign, which has no known ties to the network, did not respond to a message seeking comment.

The researchers at Syracuse were only able to study ads on Meta platforms because other companies do not make such information public. As a result, Stromer-Galley said the public is in the dark about the true amount of misinformation and scams spreading on social media.

RELATED TOPICS:

DON'T MISS

UC Merced Finally Annexed Into City Limits After Two Decades

DON'T MISS

Donors Challenged Fresno Pacific to Match Their $1.5M Gift. Was the Goal Reached?

DON'T MISS

Garlic, Curry, Fresh Corn – Would You Scream for This Ice Cream?

DON'T MISS

Meet Po: A Gentle Superhero Looking for a Home

DON'T MISS

Largest Housing Provider for Migrant Children Engaged in Pervasive Sexual Abuse, US Says

DON'T MISS

25 Million Watched Trump’s Speech at the RNC on Thursday

DON'T MISS

City Wants Hard Reset on Art Hop. Don’t Expect Food Trucks or Vendors in August.

DON'T MISS

More Victims Come Forward in Dinuba Sex Assault Case

DON'T MISS

‘Twisters’ Is the Long-Awaited Sequel to ‘Twister.’ Where to See It in Fresno.

DON'T MISS

Fresno Offers Free Movie Tickets for Seniors to Beat the Heat

UP NEXT

Donors Challenged Fresno Pacific to Match Their $1.5M Gift. Was the Goal Reached?

UP NEXT

Garlic, Curry, Fresh Corn – Would You Scream for This Ice Cream?

UP NEXT

Meet Po: A Gentle Superhero Looking for a Home

UP NEXT

Largest Housing Provider for Migrant Children Engaged in Pervasive Sexual Abuse, US Says

UP NEXT

25 Million Watched Trump’s Speech at the RNC on Thursday

UP NEXT

City Wants Hard Reset on Art Hop. Don’t Expect Food Trucks or Vendors in August.

UP NEXT

More Victims Come Forward in Dinuba Sex Assault Case

UP NEXT

‘Twisters’ Is the Long-Awaited Sequel to ‘Twister.’ Where to See It in Fresno.

UP NEXT

Fresno Offers Free Movie Tickets for Seniors to Beat the Heat

UP NEXT

Mexican President Calls Donald Trump ‘a Friend’ and Says He’ll Warn Him Against Closing Border

Meet Po: A Gentle Superhero Looking for a Home

4 hours ago

Largest Housing Provider for Migrant Children Engaged in Pervasive Sexual Abuse, US Says

16 hours ago

25 Million Watched Trump’s Speech at the RNC on Thursday

17 hours ago

City Wants Hard Reset on Art Hop. Don’t Expect Food Trucks or Vendors in August.

18 hours ago

More Victims Come Forward in Dinuba Sex Assault Case

19 hours ago

‘Twisters’ Is the Long-Awaited Sequel to ‘Twister.’ Where to See It in Fresno.

19 hours ago

Fresno Offers Free Movie Tickets for Seniors to Beat the Heat

19 hours ago

Mexican President Calls Donald Trump ‘a Friend’ and Says He’ll Warn Him Against Closing Border

19 hours ago

Republicans Grapple With Next Moves if Democrats Replace Biden

19 hours ago

California Judge Halts Hearing in Fight Between State Agricultural Giant and Farmworkers’ Union

20 hours ago

UC Merced Finally Annexed Into City Limits After Two Decades

“UC Merced, you’re in the city!” Brianna Vaccari The Merced FOCUS That declaration was made by the chair of the Local A...

2 hours ago

2 hours ago

UC Merced Finally Annexed Into City Limits After Two Decades

4 hours ago

Donors Challenged Fresno Pacific to Match Their $1.5M Gift. Was the Goal Reached?

4 hours ago

Garlic, Curry, Fresh Corn – Would You Scream for This Ice Cream?

4 hours ago

Meet Po: A Gentle Superhero Looking for a Home

16 hours ago

Largest Housing Provider for Migrant Children Engaged in Pervasive Sexual Abuse, US Says

17 hours ago

25 Million Watched Trump’s Speech at the RNC on Thursday

18 hours ago

City Wants Hard Reset on Art Hop. Don’t Expect Food Trucks or Vendors in August.

19 hours ago

More Victims Come Forward in Dinuba Sex Assault Case

MENU

CONNECT WITH US

Search

Send this to a friend