Meta approved ads in India that called for violence and spread election conspiracy theories

Meta approved ads in India that called for violence and spread election conspiracy theories

Meta’s advertising policies are once again in the spotlight as a watchdog group says the company approved more than a dozen “highly inflammatory” ads that broke its rules. The ads targeted Indian audiences and contained disinformation, calls for violence and conspiracy theories about the upcoming elections.

The ads are detailed in a from Ekō, a nonprofit watchdog organization. The group says it submitted the ads as a “stress test” of Meta’s company’s advertising systems, but that the spots “were created based upon real hate speech and disinformation prevalent in India.”

In all, the group was able to get 14 of 22 ads approved through Meta’s company’s advertising tools even though all of them should have been rejected for breaking the company’s rules. The group didn’t disclose the exact wording of the ads, but said they “called for violent uprisings targeting Muslim minorities, disseminated blatant disinformation exploiting communal or religious conspiracy theories prevalent in India’s political landscape, and incited violence through Hindu supremacist narratives.” Researchers at Ekō pulled the ads before they ran and they were never seen by actual Facebook users, according to the report.

It’s not the first time Ekō has gotten inflammatory ads approved by Meta in an effort to draw attention to its advertising systems. The group previously got a batch of hate-filled Facebook ads targeting users approved, though the ads never ran.

In its latest report, Ekō says it also used generative AI tools to create images for the ads. Researchers at the organizations said none of the ads were flagged by Meta as containing AI-generated material, despite the company’s statements that it’s working on systems to detect such content.

Meta didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. In a response to Ekō, the company pointed to its rules requiring political advertisers their use of AI and a about its efforts to prepare for the Indian elections.

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