Cybersecurity for Democracy

Cybersecurity for Democracy is a research-based effort to expose online threats to our social fabric – and recommend how to counter them. We are part of the Center for Cybersecurity at NYU.

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An investigation by Global Witness and the NYU Cybersecurity for Democracy (C4D) team looked at Facebook, TikTok, and YouTube's ability to detect and remove death threats against election workers in the run up to the US midterm elections.

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In the lead up to the midterm elections, few U.S. Senate and House candidates are spending on Spanish-language political ads on Facebook and Instagram. Just seven candidates spent more than an estimated $5,000 on Spanish ads – a tiny portion of what is being spent on political ads in English.

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A new, enhanced version of Ad Observatory is now available in English and Spanish, with increased search functionality. Compare digital political ad spending across Meta properties with this free and public dashboard.

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An investigation by Global Witness and the Cybersecurity for Democracy (C4D) team at NYU looked at Facebook, TikTok, and Youtube's ability to detect and remove election disinformation in the run-up to the U.S. midterm elections. The results? TikTok approved 90% of the election disinformation ads tested, Facebook had a mixed record. Only YouTube succeeded both in detecting the ads and suspending the channel carrying them.

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Looking for tips and templates to get started investigating digital political ads? Here's how journalists have used NYU Ad Observatory to report on digital political advertising in elections.

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Data access is long overdue for researchers, as C4D co-director Laura Edelson and others are saying. Read It’s Time to Open the Black Box of Social Media published in Scientific American.

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Ad Observatory

A new, enhanced version of Ad Observatory is now available in English and Spanish. Search digital political ad spending across Meta properties with our public, free dashboard.

Install Ad Observer

Help out by contributing your Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube ads by installing the Ad Observer plug-in tool. Now in Spanish!

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Recent Posts

Spending on 2020 Spanish-language political ads on Meta lagged behind English-language ads

More complex topic modeling and deeper research is needed on how Spanish-speakers are targeted with misinformation By Bruno Coelho and Damon McCoy During the 2020 U.S. elections, public concern grew about misleading political ads and other types of digital misinformation…

How journalists use NYU Ad Observatory to report on digital political advertising in elections

Story templates and examples for getting started on investigating paid advertising campaigns on Facebook & Instagram As the midterms elections grow closer, the volume of digital political ads will increase by magnitudes–one recent estimate predicts that $1.3 billion will be spent…

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