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Lacking eyeballs, Facebook’s ad review system fails to spot coronavirus harm

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Facebook’s ad review system is failing to prevent coronavirus misinformation from being targeted at its users, according to an investigation by Consumer Reports.

The not-for-profit consumer advocacy organization set out to test Facebook’s system by setting up a page for a made-up organization, called the Self Preservation Society, and creating ads that contained false or deliberately misleading information about the coronavirus — including messaging that claimed (incorrectly) that people under 30 are “safe”, or that coronavirus is a “HOAX”.

Another of the bogus ads urged people to “stay healthy with SMALL daily doses” of bleach, per the report.

The upshot of the experiment? Facebook’s system waived all the ads through, apparently failing to spot any problems or potential harms. “Facebook approved them all,” writes Consumer Reports. “The advertisements remained scheduled for publication for more than a week without being flagged by Facebook.”

Of course the organization pulled the ads before they were published, saying it made certain no Facebook users were exposed to the false or misleading claims. But the test appears to expose how few barriers there are within Facebook’s current ad review system for picking up and preventing harmful ads targeting the coronavirus pandemic.

The only ad in the experiment Facebook rejected was flagged because of its image, per Consumer Reports — which says it had used a stock shot of a respirator-style face mask. After swapping the image for a “similar alternative” it says Facebook approved that too.

Last month, as part of its own business response to the threat posed by COVID-19, Facebook announced it was sending home all global content reviewers “until further notice” — saying it would be relying on more automated review as a consequence of this decision.

“As we rely more on our automated systems, we may make mistakes,” it wrote then.

Consumer Reports’ investigation highlights how serious those mistakes can be, as a result of Facebook’s decision to lean so heavily on AI moderation — given the company is waiving through clearly harmful messages that urge users to ignore public health advice to stay home and socially distance themselves, or even drink a harmful substance to stay “safe”.

In response to the Consumer Reports investigation Facebook defended itself — saying it has removed “millions” of listings for policy violations related to the coronavirus. Though it also conceded its enforcement around COVID-19 misinformation is far from perfect.

“While we’ve removed millions of ads and commerce listings for violating our policies related to COVID-19, we’re always working to improve our enforcement systems to prevent harmful misinformation related to this emergency from spreading on our services,” a Facebook spokesperson, Devon Kearns, told Consumer Reports.

A Facebook spokeswoman declined to specify how many humans it has working on ad review during the coronavirus crisis when we asked. Though the company told Consumer Reports it has a “few thousand” reviewers now able to work from home.

Back in 2018 Facebook reported having some 15,000 people employed doing content review.

It’s never been clear what proportion of those are focused on (user) content review vs ad review. But a “few thousand” vs 15k suggests there has likely been a very considerable drop in the number of eyeballs checking ads. (Pre-COVID, Facebook also liked to refer to having a safety and security team of over 35,000 people globally — with the 15k reviewers sitting within that.)

Facebook’s content review team has clearly shrunk considerably as a result of coronavirus-related disruption to its business. Though the company is refusing to come clean on exactly how many (few) people it has doing content review right now.

It’s also clear that the risk of harm from tools like Facebook’s ad platform — that can be used to easily and cheaply amplify damaging online disinformation — could hardly be higher than during a pandemic, when there is a pressing need for governments and health authorities to be able to communicate facts, official guidance and best practice to their populations to keep them safe.

Facebook’s platform becoming a conduit for false and/or maliciously misleading messaging risks undermining public health at a critical time.

Last month the company was also revealed to have blocked links to legitimate news and other websites that were sharing coronavirus-related content — following its switch to AI-led moderation.

While, in recent weeks, the company has faced criticism for failing to live up to a pledge to take down ads for coronavirus masks.

At the same time, Facebook’s platform remains a hotbed of user generated coronavirus-related misinformation — with individuals widely reported sharing posts that claim bogus home remedies such as gargling with salt water to kill the virus (it doesn’t) or playing down the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic by claiming it’s ‘just the flu’ (it’s not).

TechCrunch

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5 Effective Ways to Run Facebook Ads A/B Tests

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Facebook Ads A/B Tests or split tests help them try different versions of ads with various campaign elements. This process helps them arrive at the best version for the organization’s target. 

A/B Tests offer a vast pool of resources to try out various versions. You may get caught up and lose your way to arriving at the best version in a limited time. To better understand this topic you can read the Facebook ad testing guide. Here are five effective ways to run Facebook Ads A/B Tests-

1) Start with the minimal number of variables

This approach will help you analyze the impact of a variable much better. The lesser the variables, the better will be the relevant results and more conclusive. Once you have various versions, you will need to run them through the A/B Significance Test to determine if the test results are valid.

2) The second way is to select the correct structure. 

There are two structures in A/B tests. One is a single ad test, and the other is multiple single variation ad sets. All the variations will go under one ad set in the first structure. Each variation will be under a separate ad set in the second one. Out of the two, the second one works out to be better and gives better results.

3) Use of spreadsheets is important to stay organized. 

These spreadsheets help collect and analyze data to get meaningful insights and arrive at data-backed decisions.

4) Do target advertising and set realistic time goals. 

One approach is to choose an entirely new set of audiences. Also, the data pool should be vast and not the same as some existing campaigns. The reason for choosing a different audience is that Facebook may mix up your ads and give contaminated output. 

Another approach to choosing the right audience is to pick geography. It works better, especially when you have business in a particular region.   

It’s also essential to set a realistic timeline for your testing. Facebook suggests one should run a test for at least four days, but you can choose to run the test for up to 30 days.   

5) Set an ideal budget. 

The concept of a perfect budget is subjective. But, you can fix it yourself, or Facebook can do that for you based on your testing data. A large part of the test budget is spent on avoiding audience duplication. If the same audience sees variations, it could affect the test results.

Besides these top five effective ideas, you will need to take a few more action points to make the testing process efficient. Make sure you put the website’s domain link and not the landing page link in the ad, as that doesn’t look good. Put appropriate Call To Action Button, such as ‘Learn More,’ ‘Buy Now,’ etc. It’s also important to see how your ad is coming across on various electronic gadgets- mobile, tablets, etc.

Another strategy that works is trying to engage the customer. You may add social engagement buttons such as ‘Like’ or ‘Comment.’ Use high-resolution images as they work better with the customers. Low-quality, highly edited images are often not liked and trusted by the consumers.

You can learn more about the audience behavior patterns with A/B test results. Conducting these tests on Facebook streamlines the entire process and makes it smooth for you. With the test results, advertisers and marketers can work on the creatives they need to utilize.

To sum it up, you can run an effective A/B test campaign within the specified budget. You don’t need to spend massive amounts to get your advertisement right. You’ll make the correct assumptions about the performance of variations with a good understanding of business and consumers.

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