Mozilla chairwoman calls for investigation into pro-Trump ad spending after 'a four-year disinformation campaign'

By Kevin Shalvey

Mitchell Baker, chairwoman of Mozilla, called on Friday for more transparency into targeted advertising, including ads targeting followers of President Donald Trump. 

Social media helped fuel the chaos in Washington DC on Wednesday. Now, it's important to know who has been paying for targeted ads, how much they've paid, and who they've targeted.

That information should be made public, Baker said on the official blog for the Mozilla Foundation and Mozilla Corporation. 

"Donald Trump is certainly not the first politician to exploit the architecture of the internet in this way, and he won't be the last," Baker wrote on Friday. 

After the riots, social media companies acted to remove incendiary accounts, including Trump's. The president reportedly went "ballistic" after the ban. Facebook and Twitter had done the right thing by "deplatforming" him, but there were bigger structural changes that needed to be made, Baker said. 

Read more: Parler should be taken seriously as a hotbed of extremism and conspiracy theories, a new study shows

Her call for more action echoed others in the tech sector, who said social networks hadn't done enough to curb misinformation and organizing in the months before Wednesday's attack. 

US Capitol
Michael Nigro:Pacific Press/LightRocket/Getty

"You've got blood on your hands, @jack and Zuck," said investor Chris Sacca Wednesday night, referring to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. 

Baker wrote: "But as reprehensible as the actions of Donald Trump are, the rampant use of the internet to foment violence and hate, and reinforce white supremacy is about more than any one personality.

In the future, Twitter and Facebook should be more open about their algorithms, "so we know how and what content is being amplified, to whom, and the associated impact," Baker added. She urged Facebook to automatically turn on a feature that would amplify factual voices instead of misinformation. 

She said: "Changing these dangerous dynamics requires more than just the temporary silencing or permanent removal of bad actors from social media platforms."

Baker also called for social networks to work with independent researchers. She believed this might lead to better understanding of how social media have impacted people and society. 

Baker ended by saying: "These are actions the platforms can and should commit to today. The answer is not to do away with the internet, but to build a better one that can withstand and gird against these types of challenges. This is how we can begin to do that."

Reporter Kevin Shalvey worked at Facebook from 2018 to 2019.