Making Advertising Transparent

Arti Kulkarni and Sarah Schiff

By Arti Kulkarni and Sarah Schiff, Product Managers, Business Integrity

Election Day is fast approaching, with more voter guides and political postcards arriving in your mailbox and campaigners calling and canvassing at your door. These tactics offer one way for voters to understand a candidate’s platforms before heading to the polls. Voters also frequently rely on journalists and watchdog groups to inform their decisions. Now, transparency tools like Facebook’s Ad Archive can help voters, experts and political observers alike track candidates’ campaigns and uncover other trends in the political landscape, as well.

The Ad Archive is a public, searchable database that houses all ads run on Facebook and Instagram related to politics and issues of national importance, such as education or immigration. Ads are also stored for up to seven years. Launched in May, the archive contains more than a million ads and is growing. For each ad, it shows a range of impressions and ad spend, as well as the demographics of who saw the ad. How do you make sense of all that data? Facebook hopes experts and political observers will utilize it to unlock trends that would otherwise be difficult to discern.

To provide an at-a-glance view of that dense information, Facebook is launching the Ad Archive Report. The report will be updated weekly and offer a summary of aggregated archive statistics, including advertisers by spend and top keyword searches — information that can help voters as they prepare to go to the polls.

Launching the archive and the report is one of several steps Facebook has taken to increase transparency around ads related to politics and issues of national importance. Additionally, anyone seeking to run a political or issue ad must go through an authorization process to confirm their identity and location and provide information about who paid for the ad. The advertiser must also accurately represent the name of the individual or group responsible for the ad. Political and issue ads are labeled with this information when they appear in News Feed. Enforcement is never perfect but we’re continuing to improve.

Facebook is also bringing these transparency tools to more countries, launching them in the US, Brazil and the U.K. ahead of elections. Learn more about efforts to make advertising transparent in this video.

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