[Ed. – We say it here, it comes out there. Bad Russia! Bad online ads! Undermining democracy! Emphasis added, in case you’re tempted to doubt that this is all from the script.]
Every time a television station sells a political ad, a record is entered into a public file saying who bought the advertisement and how much money they spent.
In contrast, when Facebook or Google sells a political ad, there is no public record of that sale. That situation is of growing concern to politicians and legislators in Washington as digital advertising becomes an increasingly central part of American political campaigns. During the 2016 election, over $1.4bn was spent in online advertising, which represented a 789% increase over the 2012 election. …
Luther Lowe, vice president for public policy at Yelp and a vocal critic of Google, told the Guardian: “This is not standard monopoly abuse.” Lowe added: “When a dominant information firm abuses its monopoly, you get the same negative effects of reduced choice and higher prices as in other monopolies, but democracy and free speech are also undermined because these firms now control how information is accessed and how it flows.”
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As Lowe noted, the concerns over the dominant role of Google and Facebook are not limited to the realm of political advertising. In the past week, Yelp filed an anti-trust complaint against Google, alleging that it is wrongly scraping Yelp’s content, and Facebook has come under attack for allowing advertisers to target content to users interested in topics like “Jew Haters”.