Meta earned millions in ads from networks of fake accounts | MarketingwithAnoy

When Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg was called to testify before Congress in 2018, he was asked by Senator Orin Hatch how Facebook made money. Zuckerbergs reply has since become something of a meme: “Senator, we’re running ads.”

Between July 2018 and April 2022, Meta earned at least $ 30.3 million in network advertising revenue, which it removed from its own platforms to engage in coordinated spurious behavior (CIB), shows data compiled by WIRED. Margarita Franklin, head of security communications at Meta, confirmed to WIRED that the company will not return the advertising money if a network is taken down. Franklin clarified that some of the money came from ads that did not break company rules, but were published by the same PR or marketing organizations that were later banned from participating in CIB operations.

A report from Wall Street Journal estimates that by the end of 2021, Meta absorbed 17 percent of the money in the global advertising market and earned $ 114 billion from advertisements. In any case, some of the money came from ads purchased by networks that violated Meta’s policies and that the company itself has marked and removed.

Photographs: Meta

“The global advertising industry is estimated to be around $ 400 billion to $ 700 billion,” said Claire Atkin, co-founder of the independent watchdog Check My Ads Institute. “It’s a big brush, but no one knows how big the industry is. Nobody knows what’s going on inside it.”

But Atkin says some of the things that make information, including ads, feel legitimate on social media are the context in which they appear. “Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, this entire network within our Internet experience, is the place “This is where we connect with our closest friends and family. This is a place on the Internet where we share our most intimate feelings about what’s going on in our lives,” says Atkin. “It is our trusted place of connection.”

For almost four years, Meta has published periodic reports identifying CIB networks of fake accounts and sites that are intended to deceive users and in many cases push propaganda or misinformation in ways designed to look organic and change it. public opinion. These networks can be run by governments, independent groups or public relations and marketing companies.


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Last year, the company also began addressing what it called “coordinated social harm, ”Where networks used real accounts as part of their information operations. Nathaniel Gleicher, head of security policy at Meta, announced the changes in a blog post, noting that “threat actors are deliberately blurring the boundaries between authentic and counterfeit activities, making enforcement more challenging across our industry.”

However, this change demonstrates how specific the company’s criteria for CIB are, meaning that Meta may not have documented any networks using other tactics at all. Information operations can sometimes use real accounts or be run on behalf of a political action committee or LLC, making it harder to categorize their behavior as “fake.”

“A tactic that has been used more frequently, at least since 2016, has not been bots, but actual people going out and posting things,” said Sarah Kay Wiley, a researcher at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University. “CIB reports from Facebook, they can figure it out, but it’s really hard to spot.”


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Russia accounted for most of the networked ads, which Meta identified as CIB and subsequently removed. The United States, Ukraine, and Mexico were most often targeted, although almost all campaigns targeted at Mexico were linked to domestic actors. (Metas public income documents do not break down how much the company earns by country, only by region.)

More than $ 22 million of the $ 30.3 million was spent by just seven networks, the largest of which was a $ 9.5 million global campaign linked to the right-wing anti-Chinese media group behind. Epoch Times.

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