Facebook launches searchable database for political ads – and it shows the firm is the top spender

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Facebook unveiled a database that will provide information on spending by advertisers for political ads and issues of national importance in the run-up to the midterm elections


Facebook has unveiled a searchable database that will provide information on spending by advertisers for political ads and issues of national importance in the run-up to the midterm elections.

It shows that Facebook is the top political advertiser, having dished out a whopping $12 million to publicize its ongoing election security efforts.  

The move comes as social media platforms face the threat of U.S. regulation over the lack of disclosure on such spending. 

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Facebook unveiled a database that will provide information on spending by advertisers for political ads and issues of national importance in the run-up to the midterm elections

The database, called ‘Ad Archive Report,’ will be updated weekly with details on who spent how much for political ads.   

Users can view results by time frame, advertiser and money spent. From there, they’re able to view actual examples of the ads run on its platform by advertiser.

The Ad Archive Report website notes that, since May 2018, advertisers have spent more than $256 million on approximately 1,677,184 political advertisements.

Facebook described the new tool in a blog post published on Tuesday.

People can access the Ad Archive Report whether or not they have a Facebook account.

‘This report will help you more easily find information such as the total number of ads and spend in the archive; searchable tables to find exact spend by advertiser; as well as top keywords searched,’ Facebook product manager Arti Kulkarni said in the blog post.

The database, called 'Ad Archive Report,' will be updated weekly with details on who spent how much for political ads. Users can view results by time frame, advertiser and money spent

The database, called ‘Ad Archive Report,’ will be updated weekly with details on who spent how much for political ads. Users can view results by time frame, advertiser and money spent

The Ad Archive Report shows that Facebook is the top spender, having dished out $12 million to publicize its efforts around election security. Pictured are examples of the ads it ran 

The Ad Archive Report shows that Facebook is the top spender, having dished out $12 million to publicize its efforts around election security. Pictured are examples of the ads it ran 

‘It will also provide the Page name; “Paid for by” disclaimer; total number of ads from a particular advertiser; and a link to those ads in the archive,’ Kulkarni added. 

The firm said it launched the page as part of its efforts to ‘increase transparency in advertising.’  

Facebook and Instagram were the top buyers of political ads on their respective platforms, spending $12 million on ads ‘related to our election integrity efforts and getting out the vote,’ Kulkarni said. 

The ad campaign appears to have kicked off in August, according to the archive.  

For example, a page supporting Texas Democratic U.S. Senate contender Beto O’Rourke, reveals spending of $5.4 million from May-Oct. 20. The page name is ‘Beto for Texas.’

The database shows a page supporting Texas Democratic U.S. Senate contender Beto O'Rourke with spending of $5.4 million from May-Oct. 20. The page name is 'Beto for Texas'

The database shows a page supporting Texas Democratic U.S. Senate contender Beto O’Rourke with spending of $5.4 million from May-Oct. 20. The page name is ‘Beto for Texas’

The Trump Make America Great Again Committee, a fundraising organization for President Donald Trump, was second during the period with spending of $3.1 million.

The report houses political ads for up to seven years at a time. The firm hopes to make the data downloadable soon.  

Google launched a similar feature in August that lets users view a searchable database of political ads run on its platform.

Calls have gradually intensified for Facebook to provide more political ad transparency tools on its platform. 

Facebook also has faced a barrage of criticism from users and lawmakers after it said last year that Russian agents used its platform to spread misinformation before and after the 2016 U.S. presidential election, an accusation Moscow denies. 

HOW MANY AMERICANS SAW RUSSIA’S DIVISIVE ADS DURING THE 2016 US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION?

Facebook says ads that ran on the company’s social media platform and have been linked to a Russian internet agency were seen by an estimated 10 million people before and after the 2016 US presidential election.

The company turned 3,000 ads over to three congressional committees in October 2017 as part of their investigations into Russian influence in the 2016 election.

In a company blog post, Facebook’s Elliot Schrage said the ads appeared to focus on divisive social and political messages, including LGBT issues, immigration and gun rights. 

In many cases, the ads encouraged people to follow pages on those issues.

Facebook said last month that the ads appear to have come from accounts associated with a Russian entity called the Internet Research Agency.

Fewer than half of the ads – which ran between 2015 and 2017 – were seen before the election, with 56 percent of them seen after the election. 



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