- Facebook announced plans to increase transparency into advertising on its platform by allowing users to see any ads run by an organization, per a company blog post. Users will be able to click a new "View Ads" button on an organization's Page to view all campaigns it's currently running on Facebook, Instagram or Messenger, regardless of whether or not the user is being targeted by those ads. All ads must be tied to a page. The feature, which affects all Pages, will go live next month in a test in Canada, with plans to expand to the U.S. and other countries by next summer.
- Facebook will also begin building a searchable archive of ads related to federal elections, including information on the amount of money spent on campaigns, the number of impressions they received and the demographics those ads reached. The archive will cover a "rolling four-year period" that starts at the launch of the archive.
- Political advertisers will soon have to verify their identification and location and the fact that their ad is election-related. Those ads will be labeled with a "paid for by" note that users can click for more information. Facebook is building machine learning tools to unearth political advertisers who don't identify themselves with transparency.
Facebook's introduction of a "View Ads" feature for all Pages comes just days after Twitter's announcement of a Transparency Center that essentially serves the same function. Both of these initiatives follow revelations of widespread Russian meddling on social media platforms during last year’s U.S. presidential election, but extending visibility into consumer-facing marketing campaigns is a significant development coming from companies that have, to date, been notoriously cagey about sharing this type of information with both their users and even marketers.
Facebook introducing such changes just days after Twitter did something similar shows that competition between digital advertising platforms is heating up as many attempt to re-establish the trust of brands that have grown increasingly wary of the digital media space this year. These concerns stem from a number of factors, including brand safety and the types of fake news and inflammatory material Russian operatives are widely viewed as having helped to spread.
Last month, Facebook unveiled a plan to provide more clarity on political ad campaigns run on its platform, but its latest update demonstrates that the company is taking even greater steps toward full disclosure for consumers, not just government and media organizations. Still, the political angle remains a focus as it becomes abundantly clear just how massive companies like Facebook and Twitter's influence is as disseminators of information and news online, and how easy it is to for outside entities to manipulate that power.
Congress is currently considering a bill proposing new regulations targeting digital ad platforms including Facebook, Twitter and Google. The push started when Senator John McCain backed a bill earlier this month extending rules covering political ads. The Senate Intelligence Committee is set to hear testimony from Facebook representatives next Wednesday, Nov. 1, as part of the ongoing probe into what role Russian hands played in interfering with the 2016 presidential election, according to The Financial Times.
"Transparency helps everyone, especially political watchdog groups and reporters, keep advertisers accountable for who they say they are and what they say to different groups," Facebook’s VP of ads Rob Goldman wrote in the blog post.