In an article for Wired, Antonio García Martínez explains how, through an auction system for creating ad space, Facebook ended up charging 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton more for ad space than Donald Trump. It all came down to Trump's ads being more "provocative" or click-baity, which ended up working in his favor.
Twitter user @nycsouthpaw sent out a series of tweets explaining how this all works:
This article about Facebook’s auction system, which Brad Parscale just endorsed, says that Facebook systematically charged the Clinton campaign more for ad space than the Trump campaign because Clinton’s ads were less “provocative.” https://t.co/ddFyHkfgLO pic.twitter.com/rlWDnHA9cF— southpaw (@nycsouthpaw) February 24, 2018
The article is written by an insider on Facebook’s monetization team, so presumably it’s accurate that Facebook charged Clinton more than Trump for the exact same ad real estate. In so doing, they effectively subsidized an absolutely hideous campaign of racial provocation. pic.twitter.com/xsZr1KTRsI— southpaw (@nycsouthpaw) February 24, 2018
Imagine we found out a local Fox tv station in a swing state was selling ads to opposing campaigns at different rates based on some black-box determination of how interesting they thought the ad’s content was, and the Democrat reliably got charged 5x more than the Republican.— southpaw (@nycsouthpaw) February 24, 2018
Reverse it: let’s say a radio station in the Pittsburgh market decided to price political ads based on how “responsible” it determined the ad content to be, and accordingly Clinton paid $7,000 for 30s while Trump paid $100,000. Wouldn’t that seem like a big campaign contribution?— southpaw (@nycsouthpaw) February 24, 2018
Yes, that's how we felt. Let's see if Mike Isaac from the New York Times can jump in here and explain what's going on...
here’s a very important distinction no one really ever dug into:— ಠ_ಠ (@MikeIsaac) February 24, 2018
HRC’s CPM cost was much higher —dollars higher — than trumps because her ad engagement was lower
trumps team figured out how to get very low charges bc their ads were inflammatory
this ultimately leads to a serious critique of the systems and its incentives: if you are charged less for making incendiary (and perhaps outright false) ads, aren’t you going to make more of those?— ಠ_ಠ (@MikeIsaac) February 24, 2018
fact that Facebook ads haven’t been regulated for years is borderline criminal
100 percent. Google too.— ಠ_ಠ (@MikeIsaac) February 24, 2018
now both companies are doing everything they can to avoid regs being passed which, if they ACTUALLY care about democracy, is self-serving at best and incredibly damaging at worst
sorry i went off on a whole tangent on this, but it was a very undercovered thread that i followed but for a number of reasons could not get attention around it— ಠ_ಠ (@MikeIsaac) February 24, 2018
if anything good comes out of the next two years it could be an overhaul of the digital advertising system incentives
Maybe Martínez, the man who wrote the article, can help us understand?
The long version of my piece is my book about, Chaos Monkeys. Everything I wrote in the WIRED piece is (more or less) there as well. The targeting product that Trump exploited was launched five years ago. Only now does anyone seem to care. https://t.co/IfVMlftE7v— Antonio García Mtez. (@antoniogm) February 24, 2018
From what we can gather it all boils down to this:
During the run-up to the election, the Trump and Clinton campaigns bid ruthlessly for the same online real estate in front of the same swing-state voters. But because Trump used provocative content to stoke social media buzz, and he was better able to drive likes, comments, and shares than Clinton, his bids received a boost from Facebook’s click model, effectively winning him more media for less money. In essence, Clinton was paying Manhattan prices for the square footage on your smartphone’s screen, while Trump was paying Detroit prices.