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What is political propaganda doing in this Facebook Messenger propaganda?

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What does Facebook Messenger mean for the future of political propaganda? That's the somewhat provoca
 
November 27 · Issue #34 · View online
The Interface
What does Facebook Messenger mean for the future of political propaganda? That’s the somewhat provocative headline of this piece from the new issue of Fast Company, which marries an early 2016 view of chatbots (they’re about to transform commerce!) with some concern trolling about malicious ads on Messenger.
It’s an odd piece, and I imagine quite different from whatever Facebook expected when it offered up David Marcus and other executives for an interview. Notably, the Facebook crew only comments only on Messenger’s design iterations and business potential. (Representative quote: “The whole thesis is, users are going to be able to run their life from Messenger.”)
But amid cheery talk of “offering richer tools for people to communicate,” there is looming concern:
The rise of Messenger ad tech also raises the dark specter of content so individually specific that it could change user behavior in the voting booth or even incite users to real-world violence.
Sound far-fetched? These disturbing scenarios have already played out in real life, catalyzed by the other messaging service Facebook owns: WhatsApp.
“It’s one thing to be selling a product at the exact right time,” says Robyn Caplan, a researcher at the Data & Society think tank, of Facebook’s ad targeting. “It’s another thing to start selling ideas at the exact right time. What are the circumstances in which [targeting] should be allowed? We’ve created specific guidelines around ads in past media regimes.”
What does any of this mean? I have no idea! Certainly it feels strange grafted onto the end of a story where product managers talk about Messenger’s adoption in retail businesses. (One of my chief frustrations about this piece, while tangential to our concerns here, is that it takes at face value the idea that people want to transact primarily using chat interfaces, when nearly everything we’ve seen in the past two years suggests the opposite.)
But getting back to the big idea here: While the use of WhatsApp as a viral channel to spread hoaxes is indeed worrisome, it’s not clear what political advertising has to do with it. In a country where speech is free, you can’t prevent people from messaging opinions to their friends. You can regulate political advertising, which this article dismisses as likely impossible in the case of Facebook Messenger:
Some policy makers are advocating for Facebook to publicly release all political ads (or all ads, period) that appear on its platform. When considering this demand in the context of Messenger, where ads take the form of one-on-one conversations, that solution may become nearly impossible to implement due to both privacy concerns and sheer scale.
The author may be surprised to learn that Facebook already committed to publicly release all political ads … in September

Democracy
What Does Facebook Messenger Mean For The Future Of Political Propaganda
Social Media Emerges as New Frontier in Fight Against Violent Crime
Twitter Has Suspended Another 45 Suspected Propaganda Accounts After They Were Flagged By BuzzFeed News
Elsewhere
YouTube adverts fund paedophile habits
Advertisers put YouTube ads on hold after child exploitation scandal
YouTube's Search Autofill Surfaced Disturbing Child Sex Results
YouTube kills ads on 50,000 channels as advertisers flee over disturbing child content – VICE News
Facebook Founder’s Favor Comes With Complications
Launches
Facebook to expand artificial intelligence to help prevent suicide
Snapchat quietly released new filters based on objects you're snapping
And finally ... takes
The California Review of Images and Mark Zuckerberg
Talk to me
Questions? Comments? Observations about the visual culture of Mark Zuckerberg? casey@theverge.com 
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