Facebook Has Launched Its Political Ad Archive

May 24, 2018

By Amanda Zantal-Wiener

Facebook archive of ads with political content

Facebook today unveiled the publicly searchable archive of political ads it said it would develop in April.

The launch comes alongside new labeling requirements for all election- and issue-based ads, which includes a disclosure of who paid for them.

The History of These Changes

These latest developments come after months of efforts by Facebook to emphasize its focus on election transparency — particularly after revelations were made that the platform was weaponized by foreign actors to spread misinformation and influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Earlier this month, the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) Minority released roughly 3,400 of these ads, which ran on Facebook and Instagram leading up to the 2016 elections.

They were purchased by the Russian-based Internet Research Agency (IRA), and ran between Q2 2015 and Q3 2017.

Anyone wishing to run a political or issue-based ad must also go through an authorization process that requires submitting a government-issued ID and physical mailing address to Facebook, which the company announced in October.

Facebook later took similar measures to verify any Pages with large follow numbers — it’s unclear what that threshold is — in order to prevent the creation of fake accounts that are often responsible for publishing divisive ads and misinformation.

What the Ads and the Archive Look Like

Facebook’s officially-named “Archive of Ads With Political Content” is a searchable database of any ads of political nature, both active and inactive.

However, the archive does not contain ads that were published prior to May 7, 2019. Any ads it contains after that date will be available for up to seven years.

Rather than serving as a library of ads that can be filtered according to a date range, topic, or sponsor, users must type in keywords to find ads pertaining to a certain subject or person.

To see how it works, I started with the search term “Clinton,” where I came across at least one ad that ran without a “Paid for” label, and was therefore removed by Facebook.

Facebook political ad without 'paid for by' label, featuring Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton

The company scans ads for political content through a combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and human intervention. In addition to the ad reviewers Facebook continues to hire, users of the site can report an unlabeled political ad, which is explained in the video below.

In addition to the content of the ad itself — its current status, the dates when it ran, and who paid for it — users can also view its performance, including the number of impressions it received, how much was spent on it, and a breakdown of the audience it reached.

Facebook paid ad performance page

An Imperfect System

Despite these efforts, many are taking issue with Facebook not providing even greater transparency. TechCrunch‘s Josh Constine, for example, argues …read more

Source:: HubSpot Blog


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