Facebook introduces new ad transparency features

Facebook announced the rollout of new ad transparency features on Friday amid its push to boost accountability on its platform.

Starting next month, the company will let users see all the ads a Facebook page is running, even if the user checking is not a part of the group targeted by the ads.

Advertisers who want to run election ads on Facebook will also be required to verify their identities with the company.

The ability to view ads taken out by a page will initially only be available in Canada as the company tests it. Facebook says it expects to roll out the feature in the U.S. by the summer.


“Testing in one market allows us to learn the various ways an entire population uses the feature at a scale that allows us to learn and iterate,” Facebook’s vice president of ads, Rob Goldman, wrote in a post announcing the changes. “Starting in Canada was a natural choice as this effort aligns with our election integrity work already underway there.”

During the Canadian tests, only current ads will be available, but by the American rollout, the company plans to have an archive of previous ads run by a page in addition to the ones they’re currently running.

The archive will show the total and average amount a page has spent on advertising, the total impressions of their ads and information about the demographics targeted by the ads.

Facebook did not specify when it would begin to verify advertisers posting campaign ads but did say that once verified, advertisers will be required to show a “Paid for by” disclosure. When implemented users will be able to click on the disclosure for more information about the advertiser.

Facebook says it’s also developing machine learning tools to find pages that post election ads but don’t go through the verification process.

The changes follow Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement in September that the company would begin to enact new policies and institute new features with the goal of increasing transparency and keeping foreign actors from manipulating its platform.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill recently introduced legislation that would force technology firms like Facebook, Twitter and Google to provide more data on who runs political ads on its platform.

Twitter launched its own similar tool on Tuesday.

The announcement also comes in advance of back to back Senate and House Intelligence committee hearings on how Russian actors may have used social media companies to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

General counsels from Facebook, Twitter and Google are set to testify before the committees on Wednesday.

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