Facebook, Twitter ramp up ad transparency efforts
- Facebook and Twitter took steps to make advertisements more open to user scrutiny, especially in advance of U.S. midterm elections on November 6, according to company announcements. This comes as the social media giants face pressure to stop the spread of misinformation and to root out bad actors.
- Facebook Pages now show an "Info and Ads" button on the upper right corner that when clicked will show the page's history, such as name changes and every advertisement it's currently running on Facebook, Instagram or the company's ad network. The platform's advertisers have experienced delays in posting ads in the U.S. because of the social network's new system to verify ads, COO Sheryl Sandberg said, per The Wall Street Journal.
- Twitter is launching its previously announced Ad Transparency Center to let users see the creative for all ad campaigns that have run within the last seven days from a specified handle. Further details, such as billing information, ad spend, impression data per tweet and demographic targeting data, will be shown for U.S. political advertisers that fall under the company's previously announced Political Campaigning Policy.
Twitter and Facebook's transparency rules clearly have political advertising in mind, but they will also affect brand marketers in various ways. While most brands and companies that buy ads on the social media platforms are legitimate, those marketers have their own concerns about brand safety and don't want to be associated with media companies that invite controversy and user hostility.
Facebook, Google and Twitter last year faced political pressure to investigate Russian efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election and to reveal publicly their findings, according to the Washington Post. On a more logistical level, Facebook's broad rule for verifying ads about political issues has caused delays for advertisers posting promotions in the U.S., which may cause frustration among marketers looking to run time-sensitive campaigns on the platform.
In a meeting with reporters, Facebook COO Sandberg said most advertisers were supportive of the additional transparency tools, while some had expressed concerns that the social network may be sharing information with competitors about their social media strategies, per NBC News. She said the policy will be better in the long run for Facebook, users and advertisers by making the social network more accountable to the public.
While the Cambridge Analytica scandal from earlier this year revealed how Facebook's global reach was leveraged for political campaigns in the 2016 U.S. election, the social network has played a key role in spreading fake news in countries that don't have other sources of information or public scrutiny from a free press, lawmaker inquiries, independent judiciaries and public-service broadcasters.
Twitter also has taken steps to clean up its platform, which lets users maintain anonymity unless they get permission to have verified accounts. That veil of privacy opened the door to hate speech, sock-puppet campaigns run by bot networks and widespread cyberbullying. Twitter has responded with various attempts to eliminate trolls and curb harassment over the years.