Facebook is investigating whether an organization that billionaire and Democratic moneyman Reid Hoffman backed during the midterms violated the Silicon Valley company’s policies, The Washington Post reported Monday.
Facebook’s investigation targets News for Democracy, whose Facebook ads were viewed millions of times during the 2018 midterm elections, the report notes, citing an analysis by New York University. This is the second Hoffman-backed group alleged to have spread misinformation.
The company prohibits “misrepresentation,” which includes any actions designed to purposely mislead people about the origin of content. Some of News for Democracy’s pages surreptitiously inserted left-leading messages into the news feeds of conservative voters across the country ahead of the midterm elections.
The group ran ads touting failed Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke of Texas on a Facebook page targeting evangelicals, the report notes. Another page called “Sounds Like Tennessee” ran at least one ad attacking since-elected Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee. The latter page focused primarily on sports and other local issues.
“People connecting with [pages] shouldn’t be misled about who’s behind them,” Facebook spokesman Matt Steinfeld told reporters. “Just as we’ve stepped up our enforcement of coordinated inauthentic behavior and financially motivated spam over the past year, we’ll continue improving so people can get more information about the pages they follow.”
It is misleading for left-leaning political operatives to purposely inject Democratic messages into conservative news feeds that would sway their thinking, according to some analysts, who also say it is also disingenuous to do so using the banner of news outlet.
“Calling yourself a media organization creates some kind of degree of trust and authority,” Benjamin Decker, research fellow at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, told reporters. “It’s harmful to the health of the digital public square and should not have a place on Facebook.”
Another Hoffman-backed group called MotiveAI is responsible for creating the News for Democracy pages, a person familiar with the organization told WaPo. Neither MotiveAI nor Hoffman have responded to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment about the nature of the campaign.
Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, gave $1 million to the super PAC backing former President Barack Obama in the 2012 election, according to OpenSecrets, org. The Silicon Valley billionaire gave $61,600 to the Democratic Party, and he had visited the White House four times between 2011 and 2015.
Hoffman’s money was also reportedly behind an effort to use Facebook and Twitter to undermine support for former senatorial candidate Roy Moore and boost his opponent, Democrat Doug Jones, who narrowly won the U.S. Senate race. Jones has since supported investigations into the caper.
The cost of the effort totaled roughly $100,000 — the identical amount Facebook says the Russian Internet Research Agency spent trolling people on social media leading up to the 2016 presidential election.
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