Social media giant Facebook on Friday announced a plan to increase transparency about its role in political advertising. Facebook Vice President for Ads Rob Goldman announced the decision ahead of hearings at the United States’ Congress about Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US Presidential election, and the role of social media in it.
“When it comes to advertising on Facebook, people should be able to tell who the advertiser is and see the ads they’re running, especially for political ads,” Goldman said. “That level of transparency is good for democracy and it’s good for the electoral process.”
Facebook will launch a publicly searchable archive by the summer of 2018, with details about the advertisements it runs related to elections in the United States, Goldman said. The archive would provide information about the total amount spent on the advertisements and demographics about the audience that the ads reached.
Goldman said Facebook would launch a feature from November which allows users to view ads a page is running on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger – irrespective of whether the person viewing is in the intended target audience for the advertisement. He said the feature would first be rolled out to users in Canada, and then expanded all over the world.
The social media company’s decision to allow users to view ads is a reversal from its earlier position. In June this year, Facebook told Reuters that creating an online repository of ads would violate the confidentiality of the advertisers.
Facebook, along with Twitter and Google, has been asked to testify before the US Senate Intelligence Committee in the investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the US election. Twitter had on September 29 told a Senate Committee that a Russian state-funded media organisation had placed over 1,800 advertisements in 2016 in the run-up to the presidential election. On October 24, Twitter said it was launching a transparency centre for advertising on its platform.