After Twitter announced their new Ad Transparency Center earlier this week, which will give users access to more insight into how organizations are using their platform for promotional purposes, Facebook has announced that it too will be upping it’s transparency efforts, in the wake of the investigation into how both networks were used to spread political messaging ahead of the 2016 US Presidential Election.
Similar to Twitter’s approach, Facebook’s looking to provide a new way for users to see all ads any business is running on the platform at any given time, with a new ‘View Ads’ option to be added to Pages.
As explained by Facebook:
“Starting next month, people will be able to click “View Ads” on a Page and view ads a Page is running, whether or not the person viewing is in the intended target audience for the ad. All Pages will be part of this effort, and we will require that all ads be associated with a Page as part of the ad creation process.”
The tab will show all ads each brand is running across Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and Facebook’s Audience Network - a variation of the tab has already been seen in testing, with Pages being given the option to switch on an ads tab. Eventually, it seems, that will be compulsory.
For political ads, Facebook will also provide an archive of ads run, as opposed to just those running at any given time. Facebook will also provide more in-depth data for politically-focused ads, including total ad spend, impressions delivered, and demographic insights into who the ads reached.
The option effectively puts an end to ‘dark posts’, which are promoted posts that are shown to the specific target audience, yet don’t appear on the advertisers' actual page, making them invisible to those not targeted. This is reportedly one of the key ways in which politically motivated groups have used Facebook ads to spark dissent and division, focusing very specific ads onto receptive and/or vulnerable audiences in order to fuel movements.
And as with Twitter, the new option may also help advertisers with competitive intelligence, giving them access to the full listing of campaigns and ad types being run by their competitors. That won’t necessarily make it any easier to beat them with your own ads, but it will provide more oversight into how certain Pages are seeing success.
The new process will be tested in Canada first, before being rolled out to the US, and all regions, in the new year.
In addition to this, Facebook’s also upping its verification requirements for political advertisers, with a new process that will require more thorough documentation for promoted political content.
“As part of the documentation process, advertisers may be required to identify that they are running election-related advertising and verify both their entity and location. Once verified, these advertisers will have to include a disclosure in their election-related ads, which reads: “Paid for by.” When you click on the disclosure, you will be able to see details about the advertiser.”
Facebook also knows that some will still try to get around their new requirements, so they’re building machine learning tools which will help single out political ads to ensure full disclosure.
With the investigation ongoing into how digital platforms were used to, potentially, influence voters, all the major platforms are looking to implement new tools and take action against such process. Earlier this week, Twitter announced that they’re banning all ads from accounts owned by Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik, based on the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that both RT and Sputnik attempted to interfere with the election on behalf of the Russian government. Google has also announced a new partnership with the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) at The Poynter Institute to improve their fact-checking tabs to improve new integrity in search results.
As the investigation continues, it’ll be interesting to see what other, if any, requirements are placed on the tech giants in the wake of the election investigation. Right now, they’re looking to get ahead of the wave, but they may become subject to tougher regulations in future.