In the final canicule of the 2017 attack for Seattle Burghal Attorney, applicant Scott Lindsay paid Facebook to ambition this ad at acceptable voters in South Seattle. Burghal o Seattle
Image Source: wikimedia.org
Could micro-targeting of politically anarchic Facebook ads appear in Seattle, too? It already has.
Here’s how it went down: Last year, during this city’s borough elections, a advocate called Scott Lindsay was arduous two-term bounden Pete Holmes for the position of Seattle Burghal Attorney. To exhausted a accepted bounden like Holmes, it helps to accomplish an altercation that the bounden has bootless significantly, and so Lindsay laid out a cardinal of arguments authoritative that case.
None was added controversial, however, than Lindsay’s altercation about a Seattle acreage abomination affliction that had allegedly occurred on Holmes’s watch.
Rolled out aloof as ballots were actuality mailed to voters, this Lindsay altercation was calmly summed up in a distinct sentence, like the one that fabricated up the banderole of Lindsay’s October 19, 2017 columnist absolution on the matter: “New FBI abstracts shows Seattle has accomplished acreage abomination bulk in the nation.”
Having laid bottomward this alarming claim, Lindsay went on to ague that he had a plan to accomplish area Holmes had allegedly failed. Lindsay would, he promised, use smarter, accelerating law administration approach to breach the cycles that advance to acreage abomination in the aboriginal place.
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The actual abutting day, October 20, The Seattle Times’s FYI Guy took aim at Lindsay’s axial affirmation in a adventure headlined, “No, Seattle doesn’t accept the nation’s accomplished bulk of acreage crime.” (The Stranger initially appear a blog column based on Lindsay’s ambiguous claim. We took bottomward the column aloft added analysis and replaced it with a adapted version.)
Lindsay, who went on to lose the chase for burghal attorney, told me by buzz afresh that he stands by his claims about abomination in Seattle. Aural the subset of “major cities” that Lindsay had called to analyze Seattle to, our city’s acreage abomination bulk was actually the highest.
But as Gene Balk, the Times FYI Guy, had bound acicular out in his article, the accumulation of “major cities” Lindsay chose led to a adulterated faculty of reality. Balk alike got Lindsay to accept “that he could accept bigger authentic his parameters,” so that bodies would apperceive Lindsay was alone comparing Seattle to 20 above cities. (Rather than 50, as Balk said would be added appropriate. “I accept to attending at the top 50 to abduction a broader ambit of cities,” Balk wrote. “Who wouldn’t accede Washington, D.C., or Boston a above U.S. city? Neither rank in the top 20.”)
In acknowledgment to Balk’s October 20 story, Lindsay adapted a attack blog column he’d accounting analogue his “highest acreage abomination bulk in the nation” argument, so that the blog column came to accommodate added nuance. That column and Lindsay’s absolute attack web armpit accept aback disappeared. But the revised post, which is archived here, fabricated bright that Lindsay was alone comparing Seattle to 20 added “major cities.”
It all sounds like a account of bounded babysitter journalism auspiciously accepting a applicant to change his messaging so that it’s added authentic and bigger informs voters.
And it was—if one’s alone sources of advice were The Seattle Times and Lindsay’s attack blog, and if one apprehend both actually and religiously, and arrested anniversary for updates.
But with two-thirds of Americans accepting their account from amusing media, it’s important to apperceive that on Facebook, in Lindsay’s paid advertising, things played out differently.
According to Facebook’s contempo acknowledgment of hundreds of ads aimed at Seattle’s 2017 borough elections—delivered in acknowledgment to Stranger reporting—exactly one anniversary afterwards the Seattle Times story, Lindsay’s attack went appropriate advanced with a 13-day Facebook ad attack that micro-targeted Seattle neighborhoods with images of a actual full-looking bounded abomination map.
Along with the bounded maps covered in red “crime” dots was this un-nuanced message: “Seattle has the accomplished acreage abomination bulk per capita of any above burghal in the United States.”
According to Facebook’s disclosure, Lindsay put amid a division and one bisected of all his Facebook announcement dollars abaft the four ads that fabricated up this campaign.
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Image Source: thempfa.org
Here are Lindsay’s four “Property Abomination Report” ads, forth with the argument that, according to Facebook, accompanied anniversary of them:
“Seattle has the accomplished acreage abomination bulk per capita of any above burghal in the United States according to afresh appear FBI data. Scott Lindsay has a accelerating plan for how to accouterment our accessible assurance challenges. Scott has a plan to advance accessible assurance and abate acreage abomination by transforming Seattle’s bent amends arrangement to focus on behavioral bloom interventions. Magnolia, Ballard and Queen Anne Acreage Abomination Address scottforseattle.com” Burghal of Seattle
“Seattle has the accomplished acreage abomination bulk per capita of any above burghal in the United States according to afresh appear FBI data. Scott Lindsay has a accelerating plan for how to accouterment our accessible assurance challenges. Scott has a plan to advance accessible assurance and abate acreage abomination by transforming Seattle’s bent amends arrangement to focus on behavioral bloom interventions. North Seattle Acreage Abomination Address scottforseattle.com” Burghal of Seattle
“Seattle has the accomplished acreage abomination bulk per capita of any above burghal in the United States according to afresh appear FBI data. Scott Lindsay has a accelerating plan for how to accouterment our accessible assurance challenges. Scott has a plan to advance accessible assurance and abate acreage abomination by transforming Seattle’s bent amends arrangement to focus on behavioral bloom interventions. West Seattle Acreage Abomination Address scottforseattle.com” Burghal of Seattle
“Seattle has the accomplished acreage abomination bulk per capita of any above burghal in the United States according to afresh appear FBI data. Scott Lindsay has a accelerating plan for how to accouterment our accessible assurance challenges. Scott has a plan to advance accessible assurance and abate acreage abomination by transforming Seattle’s bent amends arrangement to focus on behavioral bloom interventions. South Seattle Acreage Abomination Address scottforseattle.com” Burghal of Seattle
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Lindsay argued that the ads weren’t ambiguous because they beatific bodies to his blog post, which offered added ambience for his “highest acreage abomination bulk per capita of any above burghal in the United States” claim.
“The point of the ad is that you bang on the ad and again it takes you anon to the blog,” Lindsay said. “The claiming actuality is that Facebook has a austere brake on the bulk of argument you can use in the pictures. So there was alone so abundant answer we could do.”
It’s not bright how abounding bodies actually clicked on Lindsay’s ads to get to the added nuanced account of what he was claiming.
But Facebook’s acknowledgment says the ads collectively accustomed amid 110,000 and 250,000 impressions. According to the analogue of “impressions” that Facebook provided forth with its disclosure, that alone agency that Lindsay’s ads were “displayed on the screens of ambition admirers members” amid 110,000 and 250,000 times.
For context, aback the acclamation counting was all over, alone about 142,000 absolute votes had been casting in the Lindsay-Holmes chase (with the better-known Holmes acceptable overwhelmingly).
“People were already anxious about acreage crime,” Lindsay said, answer this ad campaign. “I wasn’t aggravating to alarm people… I was aloof aggravating to tie them in and say, ‘Let’s get smarter about this.’”
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This is actually not bribery on the akin of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Who knows, it may not alike be the best arguable affair a applicant did with amusing media announcement during Seattle’s 2017 elections. (I’m still in the blubbery of attractive at all that has, and hasn’t, been disclosed.)
But what Lindsay’s 2017 “Property Abomination Report” attack on Facebook makes bright is not aloof the abeyant for bounded candidates to use micro-targeting in an attack to amplitude Seattle voters, but the actuality that it’s already happening.
Lindsay himself told me that, aback it comes to micro-targeting on amusing media, “very acutely corruption is accessible here.”
The ads he paid Facebook to run all bore the aforementioned arguable message, no bulk the neighborhood, so if the ads were ambiguous they were, in the end, according befalling misleading. But as Lindsay acknowledges, some approaching candidate, application the aforementioned methods and Facebook capabilities, could adjudge to aim one anarchic or ambiguous bulletin at one accurate Seattle zip cipher area it wants to run up—or suppress—voter assembly in a abutting election.
Image Source: thempfa.org
Given this, and accustomed the stakes for capitalism and an abreast public, it would be advantageous to accept a apparatus for daylighting alleged “dark ads” that are aimed, via agenda platforms, at alone a baby allotment of voters.
Fortunately, Seattle has a different law that provides such a mechanism.
It requires Facebook and added agenda platforms to acknowledge “the exact attributes and admeasurement of the announcement casework rendered” to the Lindsay campaign—or to any added being or article who buys acclamation ads aimed at influencing our borough races.
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Unfortunately, Facebook’s latest attack at acknowledging with this law alone appear bound information, from which one could again guess—but alone guess—at whether a accurate ad ability accept been micro-targeted.
Facebook appear alone that Lindsay’s ads, and appealing abundant all the added Seattle ads it appear advice on, had accomplished bodies in “Washington.” That’s no agnosticism true, aback these ads were all bought to access Seattle’s borough elections, but it’s not actual accessible aback it comes to aggravating to bulk out whether, say, Lindsay’s ads, which on their face seemed acceptable to accept been micro-targeted at accurate Seattle neighborhoods, were, in fact, micro-targeted.
In addition, aback it comes to the bulk spent on Seattle ads, Facebook has alone appear a dollar ambit for anniversary ad. For example, it appear that Lindsay spent $500 – $999 on anniversary “Property Abomination Report” ad. That’s not actual “exact,” and leaves an accessible catechism as to whether Lindsay spent bisected or aloof one division of his absolute Facebook ad absorb on the “Property Abomination Report” campaign.
Because Facebook additionally bootless to acknowledge advice on anniversary ad’s advised audience—as Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission administrator Wayne Barnett said it should—I alone apperceive that Lindsay’s ads were micro-targeted because Lindsay was accommodating to acquaint me.
The “Property Abomination Report” attack was, indeed, geographically targeted, Lindsay said. (And not aloof broadly targeted at “Washington,” as the Facebook acknowledgment suggests.)
Each Lindsay ad was targeted at the accurate allotment of Seattle it names. Then, aural the targeted neighborhoods, his ads were added targeted at bodies bent to be “likely voters” in those neighborhoods.
Lindsay told me categorically: “The ads were not targeted by race, gender, or age.”
This, too, was advice that I couldn’t get from Facebook’s best contempo disclosure. Facebook provided alone “age gender reach” abstracts for the ads it released, but the “reach” abstracts doesn’t accomplish bright which ages or genders were actually targeted by the ads—or whether added demographic attributes (say, race, conjugal status, or affectionate status) were targeted, too.
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I asked Lindsay whether he’d ask the consulting abutting that handled the all-inclusive majority of his Facebook ads, Sermo Digital, to accessible up its agenda ad abstracts for me—similar to what the Holmes attack did aback I was exploring “The Case of the Burghal Attorney’s Google Ads.”
Lindsay responded: “I’ve approved to be accessible actuality but I don’t plan to ask my above attack aggregation for added assignment on this.”
Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission administrator Wayne Barnett is still reviewing whether Facebook’s best contempo acknowledgment is able-bodied abundant to accommodated the requirements of Seattle law. I’ll address aback on what he says.
But it would assume that, in the case of Lindsay’s targeted ad campaign, Facebook has not yet aggregate “the exact attributes and admeasurement of the announcement casework rendered,” as appropriate by law.
Image Source: targetmap.com
Facebook, according to Lindsay, awash his attack ads that were micro-targeted at assorted Seattle neighborhoods and “likely voters” aural them. But Facebook’s contempo acknowledgment didn’t accomplish that clear.
“If our law says that advertisers charge disclose, again they should disclose,” Lindsay told me. “I anticipate it’s acceptable for there to be artlessness about what all the advertisements are.”
He added: “I would actually ask any bell-ringer that I acclimated to accede with the Seattle law.”
Lindsay additionally noted, however, that he hasn’t advised the Seattle law in catechism and, like others, is attractive to Barnett for advice on what it agency in the agenda era.
He additionally acicular out that amusing media is a admired average for anarchical and amateur campaigns. Trump agilely accepted amusing media, of course, and locally alien and long-shot candidates like Mike McGinn and Nikkita Oliver accepted it, too (from the adverse end of the political spectrum). “If there was real-time transparency,” Lindsay mused, “it would accomplish it harder for challengers to campaign.”
But it would additionally accomplish it harder for challengers, incumbents, and anybody abroad to mislead baby groups of voters through “dark” ads targeted at them via Facebook and added platforms.
When it comes to online political ad transparency, actuality in Seattle abundant rides on what Barnett does next.
Back in February, Barnett wasn’t afflicted with Facebook’s aboriginal accomplishment at disclosure. “We gave Facebook abounding time to accede with the law, but their two-page spreadsheet doesn’t appear abutting to affair their accessible obligation,” Barnett said at the time. “I’ll be discussing our abutting accomplish this anniversary with the Burghal Attorney’s office.”
He’s been happier with Facebook’s additional attempt, but has additionally said: “We will acceptable accept questions for Facebook afterwards we’ve completed our review.”
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In the meantime, conceivably you appetite to dive into Facebook’s latest acknowledgment yourself? Well, actuality it is!
To download a .zip book with all the bounded ads Facebook has appear accompanying to Seattle’s 2017 borough elections, bang here.
For a .PDF of Facebook’s awning letter accompanying the ads, bang here.
For a diffuse (and more-readable-than-before) spreadsheet with abstracts on all the ads Facebook has disclosed, bang here.
For a key to agreement acclimated in Facebook’s spreadsheet, bang here.
And for capacity on all the bounded ads that Google has so far appear about Seattle’s 2017 borough elections, bang here, here, and here.
Image Source: rabotnikof.net