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Facebook opens up its political advertising archive

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Today was a big day for people who like digging through thousands of political ads. Facebook’s new ru
 
May 24 · Issue #144 · View online
The Interface
Today was a big day for people who like digging through thousands of political ads.
Facebook’s new rules regarding disclosures for political ads took effect in the United States today, requiring election-related and issue ads to include information about who paid for them. A new “paid for” label will be visible at the top of ads on Facebook and Instagram, and clicking it will take you to a page with information about the cost of the ad and the demographic breakdown of the audience that saw it.
Advertisers will also have to verify their identity and location, a move that Facebook says will discourage foreign agents from attempting to interfere in outside elections. Facebook announced new rules around ad disclosures last year after revelations that Russians had illegally run ads on the platform during the 2016 US presidential election. The company began testing its new disclosure policies in Canada earlier this year.
Under the new policies, you’ll be able to see information about the age, location, and gender of the audiences for political ads. Among other things, this will let citizens and academic researchers examine how candidates for office appeal to different groups, and it will hold them accountable if they send conflicting messages. Facebook will store and make available the past seven years of political ads beginning when the new rules take effect. (You can see them at facebook.com/politicalcontentads.)
For more on the Facebook changes, check out my full story.
Then there was Twitter, which beat Facebook to its own announcement by a few minutes. But where Facebook’s product was actually ready to go, Twitter just had an announcement that similar tools are coming “this summer.” Here’s my colleague Nick Statt:
Twitter is now reiterating that it does not allow “foreign nationals to target political ads to people who are identified as being in the US.” The company is also demanding that political campaigning ads should be associated with a handle that has a profile photo, a header photo, and a website that is “consistent with its online presence.” The Twitter bio must also include that website and valid contact info. These profiles will also have what Twitter refers to as a visual badge and further disclaimer info on promoted tweets to ensure users are able to differentiate between political and non-political advertising content as well as who paid for the content and whether it was officially authorized by an active US political candidate.
These changes are largely in line with the announcement Twitter made in April that it would be following guidelines outlined in the proposed Honest Ads Act, a bipartisan bill that was first introduced back in October to try and regulate political ad practices on social media. While the bill has not passed, Twitter said it would comply with many of its provisions at the time, and the announcement today marks the first concrete set of rule changes for Twitter following revelations of Russia’s involvement in the election and the subsequent congressional hearings on the subject last fall.
Twitter says it still plans to launch its Ads Transparency Center in the summer that will “go beyond the requirements of the Honest Ads Act” to increase transparency on the platform through more detailed breakdowns of ad spend and targeting demographics. The company is still hammering out its policy on so-called issue ads, or hot-button topics with divisive debates among candidates, and that disclosure rules and further guidelines around ads on those topics “will fall under a separate upcoming policy.” Twitter says it’s also looking into expanding these policies overseas.
I’m somewhat concerned that Twitter can’t offer a launch time frame for its own ad search tool narrower than “this summer.” The midterm election campaign is already in full swing, and if Twitter ads don’t become “transparent” until late August, that leaves precious little time for research before early voting begins.
Of course, one way Congress could have moved companies like Twitter along is to pass the Honest Ads Act that Nick mentions here. What ever happened to that one? Watch this space for more on that soon. 

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Talk to me
Questions? Comments? Political ads? casey@theverge.com
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