Facebook will soon make it easier to see who paid for political ads


Facebook is joining Twitter in introducing new policies for political ads without waiting for legislation to catch up. On Friday, October 27, Facebook shared updated plans for improving transparency in advertising, an ongoing process after testifying before Congress earlier this fall regarding the Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election in 2016.

Beginning in November, the platform will begin testing a number of changes for ads in Canada — and not just for Facebook political ads. All Pages that use paid advertising will soon have a “view ads” option, allowing users to see what ads the business is running on Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram. The option will list all ads, whether or not they were targeted to a specific demographic.

The listing of ads covers all business Pages, but a few options will also apply to only the ads related to a federal election. While the initial test will only show active ads, Facebook plans to expand the tool to include an archive of old ads for the political category, though the archive would only begin collecting ads once the feature launches. This ads page will also provide details on how much the business spends on advertising, how many people saw the ad and what demographics the ad reached.

Facebook says the tool will roll out to the U.S. next summer in time for the November midterm elections, along with rolling out more globally to other countries around that same time.

While the new option on a Page will allow users to search for a business’ ad history, another change will help immediately alert users to who paid for that political ad. The change will label political ads with a “paid for by,” along with an information icon to click for finding out additional details, including that link to a list of all ads.

Advertisers may be required to verify both their entity and location for political ads. The company is building machine-learning tools to help find advertisers that don’t identify themselves as political advertisers, Facebook said. The update expands on the advertising changes Facebook announced earlier in October.

Earlier this week, Twitter introduced a similar “paid for by” label along with an Advertising Transparency Center that allows users to see data about all ads on the platform. Both platforms appear to be getting a headstart after the bipartisan Honest Ads Act was introduced. While the act is not yet a law, the legislation aims to make political ads on social media follow the same rules as TV, print, and broadcast, which includes both a “paid for by” disclosure and a public database of ad spending.

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