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Australia's election observers can not identify who paid for political Facebook ads technology



Australian electoral authorities lack the resources and powers to investigate the obscure means used to disseminate political ads on Facebook.

The use of paid social networking advertising has challenged democracies around the world, including Australia, because it can allow unknown sources to use money to influence voters.

The Guardian announced this year that one of the world's largest coal miners, Glencore, funded an Influence campaign on Facebook to undermine renewable energy and boost demand for voters to change coal and government policies.

The operation, code-named Project Caesar, launched counterfeit interest groups online, including one called Energy in Australia, to spread paid political messages to unsuspecting voters.

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Green News Senator Larissa Waters polled the Australian Election Commission at a hearing on Friday morning's Joint Standing Caucus on what she can do to investigate such advertising.

The Australian law requires paid political ads to contain the name and location of an authorizing officer, but does not force advertisers to say who provides the funds.

The Chief Legal Officer of the AEC, Andrew Johnson, said his organization lacked the resources to specifically find out who was "behind the veil" of such ads in the election campaign. According to Johnson, campaigns to raise public awareness and media coverage were crucial.

"The challenge is a resource procurement problem, and during a five-week campaign and the amount of communications that are happening, we are really looking into this authorization detail and the ability to look beyond it is very difficult.

And I think that comes down to the comments of the Electoral Commissioner on the importance of thinking and thinking [campaign] and public awareness, but also the importance of the media for control, and the media, who have this additional ability to control and go beyond and communicate this to the public through these sources so that information is publicly available.

"It's something of the electoral commission, considering that we do not have these resources to do.

Johnson said the legislation only forces an authorizing party to state their name and location.

"Some of The regulatory requirements do not give any details of who is actually behind it, and an additional investigation is required. "

He suggested that it would be better to investigate and disclose such information through the media than through regulation and litigation.

Waters replied, "I do not accept that it is better to leave it to the media than to regulate. I think both are ideally needed. "

Internationally, Facebook has introduced new transparency measures for the payment of political advertising on its platform. In Australia, however, she rejected this before the federal elections.

Johnson said the AEC had already held talks before the poll.

"In particular, we had conversations with Facebook and Twitter extending the library for advertising transparency to Australia for the federal elections," he said. "Facebook has not done so and they have given reasons that were due to the extent of international elections, especially during the first year with Indian and Indonesian elections."

Comments came when the Guardian this morning revealed the existence of a new disinformed network, operated by Israel, which used 21 far-right Facebook pages to spread coordinated disinformation over two years. This network did not use paid advertising and therefore would not be the focus of the AEC.

However, the network has attempted to influence politics throughout the Western world, including Australia, to promote right-wing extremist candidates and to criticize Muslim politicians and undermine high-profile left-wing leaders.


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