Facebook in vow to make adverts more transparent
Under pressure in advance of hearings on Russian election interference, Facebook is moving to increase transparency for everyone who sees and buys political advertising on its site.
Executives for the social media company said yesterday they will verify political ad buyers in federal elections, requiring them to reveal correct names and locations, and to create new graphics where users can click on the ads and find out more about who's behind them.
More broadly, Rob Goldman, Facebook's vice president in charge of ad products, said the company is building new transparency tools in which all advertisers - even those that aren't political - are associated with a page, and users can click on a link to see all of the ads any advertiser is running.
Users also will be able to see all of the ads paid for by the advertisers, whether or not those ads were originally targeted toward them.
The move comes after the company acknowledged it had found more than 3,000 ads linked to Russia that focused on divisive US social issues and were seen by an estimated 10 million people before and after the 2016 US elections.
Facebook, Twitter and Google will testify in Congress next Tuesday and Wednesday on how their platforms were used by Russia or other foreign actors in the election campaign. The Senate and House intelligence committees and the Senate Judiciary Committee are all holding hearings as part of their investigations into Russian election interference.
Facebook's announcement comes a day after Twitter said it will ban ads from RT and Sputnik, two state-sponsored Russian news outlets. Twitter also has said it will require election-related ads for candidates to disclose who is paying for them and how they are targeted.
Facebook's Goldman said the company also will build a new archive of federal election ads on Facebook, including the total amount spent and the number of times an ad is displayed, he said. The archive, which will be public for anyone to search, would also have data on the audience that saw the ads, including gender and location information. The archive would eventually hold up to four years of data.
Mr Goldman said the company is still building the new features and plans to roll them out in the United States by next summer ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. "This is a good first step but it's not at all the last step, there's a lot to learn once we start testing," Mr Goldman said in an interview.