social media

Social media and search companies face issues over elections.

Issues surrounding elections aren’t just a U.S. concern for Google and Facebook, the dominant social media and search companies.

Google has unveiled that it would put stricter controls on advertisers connected to European elections that it has already implemented in the U.S. According to the New York Times:

(Google) said in a blog post that people and groups buying ads that mention a political party, a candidate or an officeholder related to the parliamentary elections would need to make clear who is paying for the advertisement. The company will also require verification that they are citizens, legal residents or groups lawfully allowed to participate in the election.

Google and Facebook, the two largest online advertising platforms, are facing pressure to protect against the kind of foreign misinformation campaigns that were discovered in the 2016 presidential election in the United States. The companies operate advertising systems that are largely automated, making the networks immensely profitable but harder to police.

Social media giant Facebook has even tougher issues to face than Google. The social media company has been criticized on both sides of the Atlantic for its handling of user data, especially data obtained by British firm Cambridge Analytica and used to target campaign advertising.

That incident has prompted the British Parliament to demand a slew of documents from Facebook. According to The Guardian:

The cache of documents is alleged to contain significant revelations about Facebook decisions on data and privacy controls that led to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. It is claimed they include confidential emails between senior executives, and correspondence with Zuckerberg.

Damian Collins, the chair of the culture, media and sport select committee, invoked a rare parliamentary mechanism to compel the founder of a US software company, Six4Three, to hand over the documents during a business trip to London. In another exceptional move, parliament sent a serjeant at arms to his hotel with a final warning and a two-hour deadline to comply with its order. When the software firm founder failed to do so, it’s understood he was escorted to parliament. He was told he risked fines and even imprisonment if he didn’t hand over the documents.

“We are in uncharted territory,” said Collins, who also chairs an inquiry into fake news. “This is an unprecedented move but it’s an unprecedented situation. We’ve failed to get answers from Facebook and we believe the documents contain information of very high public interest.”