Facebook today released a new tool that will allow users to see what advertisements a Page is running — whether or not all of those advertisements are targeted at that particular user. It’s the latest in a string of new features from Facebook to give users more insight into how advertisers are using its platform.
Starting today, users will see a new button called “info and ads” at the top of a Page belonging to a business, nonprofit, or other organization. “Page info” will allow them to see when the Page was created and if its name has been changed at all, though the company said there would be more information available to view in the tab in the coming weeks. The “active ads” section will allow users to see what ads that page is currently running across Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger. The tool has previously been tested in Canada.
Announced in April, the company said at the time that some of the goals of the “info and ads” section were to “increase transparency and accountability, as well as prevent election interference.” Before and after the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the Russia-linked Internet Research Agency ran around 3,000 paid ads on Facebook that were able to reach about 10 million Americans. The revelation drew condemnation from Congress that a foreign group like the IRA was able to interfere in U.S. elections simply by using Facebook’s normal ad targeting tools.
Among the other tools that Facebook has recently announced to combat election interference: a new issue and political ads database that allows users to view ads from a certain candidate or ads that deal with a contentious topic, like immigration or health care, in aggregate. Currently available in the U.S., Facebook also announced today that it would be rolling out a political ad archive in Brazil soon, ahead of its October elections.
Facebook’s rollout of the database has been criticized by news organizations, which object to their ads promoting news articles on political topics being displayed alongside ads run by politicians, as well as other businesses and organizations that feel that their ads have been unfairly classified as political. This week, Facebook announced that in response to media pushback, it would separate ads from news organizations in another tab called “promoted news.”
Historically, it’s been difficult for Facebook users to get a sense of all the ads a company may be running on Facebook because of the platform’s targeted advertising tools. Targeted advertising allows companies to show one ad to, say, users in Ohio and another to users in New York. The new “page info” section will also allow users to see if a Page is trying to be deceptive in reaching users by continually changing its name.
“We have the ability with a platform like Facebook to serve very targeted customer messages — now that’s going to be all very open to the public and it will be interesting to see how and if that has any effect on users perspective of companies,” Amanda Grant, a managing partner and U.S. head of social at media agency GroupM, told VentureBeat in a phone interview. One unintentional consequence of the tool is that advertisers will now be able to see what kind of ads their competitors are running.
All of these changes comes as Congress is still grappling with how to regulate ads displayed on Facebook and other social platforms — if at all. Facebook has previously endorsed the Honest Ads Act, which would require platforms with more than 50 million monthly users to keep a file of all political ads that cost more than $500.