How should we regulate Facebook and Google’s advertising platforms?

So how does Facebook’s ad system work? Well, just like Google, it’s accessed through a self-service platform that lets you target your audiences using Facebook data. And because Facebook knows an awful lot about its users, you can target those users with astounding precision. You want women, 30–34, with two kids who live in the suburbs? Piece of cake. Men, 18–21 with an interest in acid house music, cosplay, and scientology? Done! And just like Google, Facebook employed legions of algorithms which helped advertisers find their audiences, deliver their messaging, and optimize their results. A massive ecosystem of advertisers flocked to Facebook’s new platform, lured by what appeared to be the Holy Grail of their customer acquisition dreams: People Based Marketing!

via Lost Context: How Did We End Up Here? – NewCo Shift

I’m really torn on this one. John Battelle here (a tech publishing veteran who knows a good deal about online advertising) argues for more regulation and transparency of Facebook and Google’s advertising platforms.

I’ve seen how both Facebook and Google’s advertising platforms can work wonder for good causes like the nonprofits, religious group, and community organizations that are our clients. It’s wonderful to see the way that we can work miracles (hyperbole) to create new reach, fundraising, and awareness campaigns for these groups on a limited budget using Facebook Ads and AdWords. In the past, that would have required them to spend exponentially more on marketing and advertising. But now, we can help these groups grow on a shoestring. That’s a good thing.

However, we are at an inflection point.

I agree with Battelle on a theoretical layer, but there’s also the notion of democratic capitalism and the need to allow markets to flourish or wither based on their own actions (does our democracy value ethics, morality etc the same as it has and what does that mean for advertising?).

On the other hand, there are other advertising platforms that are major players in Asia and will be major players on a global scale soon such as Alibaba and Tencent and Rakuten. If we hamstring Google and Facebook, do we run the risk of advertisers abandoning those platforms for greener global pastures?

On the other hand, Russia interfered with our Presidential election and it’s no secret that politicians and special interest groups are doing bad things with these platforms.

Author: Sam Harrelson

Marketing and Technology Strategist at https://samharrelson.com ; Podcast at https://thinking.fm

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