Mozilla & Facebook are fighting over political manipulation

Facebook continues to attract heat over its lack of transparency regarding political ads on the platform. Mozilla has just joined the activist groups criticizing the social network, officially lodging a complaint with the European Commission.

Mozilla intended to launch a Firefox Election package for the EU’s upcoming parliamentary elections, including an add-on that would identify ads and inform users about their targeting strategy. However, Facebook’s recent updates block such an add-on from functioning, a move that Mozilla says creates a “lack of transparency” that fails to meets the standards set by the EU’s Code of Practice on Disinformation.

Facebook itself is slated to release a political ad transparency tool ahead of the EU elections, but of course, it’s easy to spot the conflict of interest there, especially for a company with a history of covering up its relationships with political operators. In the letter, Mozilla COO Denelle Dixon, “Transparency cannot just be on the terms with which the world’s largest, most powerful tech companies are most comfortable”.

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Mozilla’s Firefox browser wants to protect users from shady propaganda. / © Tech News

So far Mozilla’s attempts to reach an agreement with Facebook have failed, so now it has escalated the issue to the Commission in the hopes that that it might pressure the social network into more transparency. But Facebook isn’t likely to cave on the issue. The social network has defended its approach to browser plugins a “routine update” intended to thwart spyware hidden in plugins such as dodgy ad blockers that would feed data to “bad actors.”

Mozilla isn’t the only organization protesting that Facebook makes it too hard to gather information on political ads. ProPublica and WhoTargetsMe have also objected that Facebook is restricting their ability to analyze how propaganda and disinformation is purposely spread on the most popular online social platform in the world. It’s not a good look for Facebook, as the company’s reputation struggles to recover from Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal and more recently, the Facebook Research app.

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