Earlier this month Facebook Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos threw a twittertantrum over accusations that Facebook's algorithms promoted fake news in its users' feeds: "I am seeing a ton of coverage of our recent issues driven by stereotypes of our employees and attacks against fantasy, strawman tech cos," he wrote. "Nobody of substance at the big companies thinks of algorithms as neutral. Nobody is not aware of the risks."
Nobody of substance at the big companies thinks of algorithms as neutral. Nobody is not aware of the risks.— Alex Stamos (@alexstamos) October 7, 2017
But who needs algorithms to help political trolls transmit propaganda, when Facebook's sales team created this beautiful "US Political Segmentation" menu that made it easy to target groups of people "along a political ideology spectrum."
Indeed, it's increasingly clear that Facebook did not police its platform effectively during the 2016 election. This week, the company will have to answer questions from Congress about its missteps, including how it allowed a $100,000 Kremlin-linked ad buy intended to influence the election and sow discord in its aftermath. Asked if any of the 14 segments were targeted in that ad buy, a Facebook spokesperson said they were not, noting that the segments were available only through sales teams from whom the Russians did not buy ads. Asked if the Russians used the broader, umbrella categories in their targeting, a Facebook spokesperson reiterated Facebook's intention to let Congress decide whether to release the ads and associated data.