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Facebook expands ad transparency beyond politics: Here’s what’s new

Facebook expands ad transparency beyond politics: Here’s what’s new
[Photo: Paweł Czerwiński/Unsplash; James Montgomery Flagg/Wikimedia Commons]

Facebook said Thursday it’s rolling out improved and expanded transparency measures for political elections, including an Ad Library with public data on ads run on any of its platforms, including Instagram.

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The Ad Library, which was previously called the Ad Archive in the U.S., includes all active ads running on a Facebook page—not just politics or issue ads. The library will now be a central place to view the ads and related information; previously this was available only on a page in the Info and Ads section.

For each ad, the Ad Library provides information on who saw the ad, how much money the buyer spent to run it, and the number of impressions it received. Facebook says the library will now store ads for seven years after they run.

The library will include additional information about the pages where the ads appeared, including:

  • Page creation date, previous page merges, and name changes.
  • Primary country location of people who manage a page, provided it has a large audience, or runs ads related to politics or issues in select countries.
  • Advertiser spend information for ads related to politics or issues where the Ad Library Report is currently available. This includes all-time spend and spend over the last week, which was previously only available in the Ad Library Report.

It’ll be easier to search for ads in the library, too, Facebook says. Ads can be searched by page, not just keywords; and past user searches can be saved (for logged in users).

Starting in mid-May, Facebook says it will update the Ad Library Report on politics- and issues-related ads daily, rather than just weekly or monthly.

The company is also expanding access to the Ad Library API to a wider group of researchers. The API was previously in beta. To gain access, researchers must “go through the Facebook Identity Confirmation process, create a Facebook Developer account, and agree to our platform terms of service,” product manager Satwik Shukla wrote in a blog post. The identity confirmation process can take up to a few weeks.

Facebook also announced new rules for political ads in the EU. Advertisers there will need to be authorized in their country to run ads linked with the European Parliamentary election or other important issues within the EU, as well as provide a “Paid for by” disclaimer clearly communicating which organization is responsible for the ad. The ads will be archived in the Ad Library, and Facebook will block ads that do not comply beginning in mid-April.

The changes come amid pressure by election observers and researchers to provide more transparency. It’s not clear if the changes will meet the strict transparency standards in Washington State, which sued Facebook over its political ads last year. The company agreed to pay over $238,000 to settle the suit in December, and said it would temporarily stop allowing political ads in the state, but The Stranger has reported that Facebook has continued to sell some local political ads.


Related: Trump is already massively outspending Dems on Facebook and Google ads


“Over the past two years, we’ve made real strides when it comes to finding and addressing threats to election integrity, including: expanding our teams focused on safety and security to more than 30,000 people globally, on-boarding new fact-checking partners, and standing up elections operations centers in Dublin and Singapore,” Facebook’s Shukla wrote. “We’ve also launched ads transparency tools in the U.S., the U.K., Brazil, and India, as well as Ukraine and Israel leading up to key elections.”

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