It’s Facebook vs. the Bloomberg Campaign vs. the Internet

Several high-profile Instagram accounts posted sponsored content for Michael Bloomberg’s presidential campaign on Wednesday afternoon.

World Star Hip Hop, Funny Hood Vidz, Banger Buddy, Nugget, and Wasted, all accounts with millions of followers, posted ads in the form of fake “relatable” tweets and edited videos.

The posts do not make use of Instagram’s official system for disclosing that money has changed hands. The company has said that all creators posting sponsored content on behalf of presidential campaigns must use the official branded content tool. Branded content is a form of advertising.

Many of the accounts the Bloomberg campaign has advertised on are private, which means that followers must request to see the accounts and be approved by the account owners.

Facebook’s election team learned about the Bloomberg campaign’s plan to hire social media influencers through a report in The Times. On an internal message board used by the team, seen by The Times, the story was posted with a question: “Do we know about this?”

Immediately, according to a Facebook employee who was at a meeting about it, the group began to scour Facebook and Instagram for examples of influencers who had posted favorable Bloomberg content. With each post, the team checked to see if the photograph or video was clearly labeled sponsored by the Bloomberg campaign.

The posts they found were labeled. The group decided it would create an online database through CrowdTangle, a social media tool also owned by Facebook. The tool allowed them to catalog all posts by influencers that had been paid for by the Bloomberg campaign.

There was just one problem: Facebook’s team was relying on the influencers to label themselves.

The memers who created the first round of Bloomberg posts two weeks ago were asked by Facebook to retroactively label their posts through the official tool. However, many ads posted since then have not done so. Facebook is currently investigating how to crack down on these violations. So far, no meme accounts have been penalized.

The only disclosure on the Bloomberg advertisement posted to World Star Hip Hop read: “Verified #sPoNsoReD: bY @mIkEbLoOmbErg.”

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