"Dark ads" are pieces of paid content on social media platforms that are not explicitly labeled as paid.
What happens when your friend tags you in a post labeled to them as an advertisement, but not to you? What about when a social media influencer is sent free products in exchange for a post about the product, to be shared with their millions of followers?
It can be very difficult for users to understand when a piece of content has been paid for by an external influence.
- In the summer of 2018, online political ads generated tens of billions of views, and total online political ad spending for 2020 is expected to be over three times what it was in 2016.
- Advertisers hypertarget thousands of variants of ads without proper disclosure. The Republican National Committee (RNC) has stated publicly that their organization routinely ran 40,000 to 50,000 variants of ads ahead of the October 2016 presidential debates.
- According to NYU researchers, over half of Facebook pages from May 2018 until June 2019 that displayed U.S. political ads concealed the identities of their backers
- Over $1.1 billion was spent on political ads on Facebook alone since May 2018