Mozilla, the nonprofit behind Firefox, announced today an “election bundle” it’s pushing to help users protect themselves from misinformation and misleading advertising in the run-up to the U.S. midterms.
On Monday, Firefox will launch a special election edition browser that comes with two extensions installed: ProPublica’s Political Ad Collector, and the Facebook Container that Firefox launched in March. The Facebook Container makes it harder for Facebook from tracking your activity across the web and subsequently using that information in ad targeting. The Facebook Container extension essentially forces you to access Facebook within a silo.
ProPublica launched its Political Ad Collector extension a year ago, first as a Chrome extension. The tool collects the ads served to each Facebook user with the add-on installed and enters it into ProPublica’s database. ProPublica gets information about the featured photo and text, who was targeted with the ad, and the number of times the ad has been seen.
The goal is to understand how political campaigns use different messaging to reach different people — since advertisers can target groups by age, gender, and state among other characteristics on Facebook — and how they may be spreading false or misleading information. ProPublica has broken stories about how Facebook’s ad tools have let landlords exclude users by race, or allow job posters to target only men.
“For many people, a confusing tangle of cyberjargon and misinformation have combined to make the idea of turning to the web for election information a weird proposition. We can’t let this happen,” a blog post announcing the new election bundle states.
In the lead-up to the U.S. midterms, which take place on November 6, other tech companies have been pushing voter registration on their apps and websites.
Starting today, users can also check their voter registration status on the Mozilla homepage, as well as a curated feed of election news on Mozilla’s homepage from Pocket. Firefox is also releasing a voting and election-themed episode of its IRL podcast today.
For today’s internet users, cybersecurity and privacy is no longer just about keeping personal information out of the hands of hackers. Users also increasingly want to limit the amount of tracking ad companies can do of them online, and they worry about the way political groups are trying to sway them through digital ads. Firefox’s election tools are a natural extension of those concerns.
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