Updated November 2020

On November 9th, Facebook was hauled in front of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in one of the biggest hearings since Microsoft. The company’s CEO will have to explain their part in the “Facebook Russian hack”, Kremlin’s infiltration of the US democratic process.

Intense scrutiny from United States government

Facebook, initially incredulous that its platform could possibly be misused in this way by Russia. It had at last conceded that this is exactly what can happen in a company has such a scale. The platform has over 2 billion active users per month and over 5 million advertiser accounts. These accounts can buy and place ads without human intervention, opening the path for scams and unethical ad placement.

“BOTH TECHNICALLY, AND FROM A CULTURAL PERSPECTIVE I DON’T FEEL LIKE WE HAVE CAUGHT UP WITH OUR RESPONSIBILITY”

In acknowledging their responsibility towards the United States government, Facebook has hired 1000 (human) ad monitors to oversee advertising. The monitors’ job is to compliment the Facebookadvertizing algorithms. The company have promised to have their house in order by the next US election – i.e. the mid-term elections. Due a year to the day of the upcoming Select Committee hearing, the pressure from investigators is grooming on the internet giant.

Insufficient efforts to battle Facebook Russian hack

Some argue Facebook’s 1000 business monitors will barely scratch the surface. This is what Facebook’s own Chief Security Officer, Alex Stamos, admitted in a taped interview. “Both technically, and from a cultural perspective I don’t feel like we have caught up with our responsibility”. Alex Stamos was speaking about data security, and without knowing he was being recorded. However, his comments are equally apt in the current discussion.

What to expect next from internet’s influence on voters

For now, the question is: How will the Senate react? Can we expect to see the regulation of Facebook? And, if we do, would that be a good thing for business? Could regulation affect the effectiveness of advertising expenditure market? Big brands may well absorb any additional costs, but what about the mom-and-pop business that use Facebook advertising to drive their day-to-day living?

Will this bring about the end of the democratization of advertising in the market? Or is it the price we pay to keep the democratization of our nation intact from interference?

By Dellistina James, Head of Business Development at MASS Analytics

November 2nd, 2017.