Social networks may have to reveal how they target users with ads

Social networks may have to reveal how they target users with ads C-Suite Network
Elizabeth Denham

Facebook and Twitter may be forced to reveal detailed information about how and why users were targeted for political advertising, the information commissioner Elizabeth Denham has suggested.

Speaking to the digital, culture, media and sport (DCMS) select committee, which is holding an inquiry into fake news, Denham said that transparency in political campaigning was crucial.

“Our intention is to be able to pull back the curtain and to be able to explain and expose for the public, for parliamentarians, for civil society, what happens with their personal information in the context of political advertising and political messaging,” she said.

“There needs to be transparency for the people who are receiving [political adverts on Facebook], so that they can understand how their data was matched up and was used to be the audience for the receipt of that message. And I think that’s where people are asking for more transparency,” Denham added.

Q&A

What is a Twitter bot?

Strictly defined, a Twitter bot is any automated account on the social network. That can be something as simple as automatically tweeting links to news articles – most of the Guardian’s social media accounts are technically Twitter bots, for instance – to complex interactions like automatically generating Emoji-based art or automatically replying to climate change deniers with scientific evidence.

But, as with “troll” and “fake news”, the strict definition has been forgotten as the term has become one of political conflict. The core of the debate is the accusation that a number of political tweets were sent by “Russian bots”, with the intention of subverting political debate, or simply creating chaos generally.

Based on what we know about Russian information warfare, the Twitter accounts run by the country’s “troll army”, based in a nondescript office building in St Petersburg,…