Last October, in the midst and fallout of understanding the full scope of Facebook’s role in the 2016 election, they launched a political ad archive. Their goal was to provide more transparency around political advertising. This week Facebook announced it would be expanding the Ad Archive into an Ad Library to catalog all ads run by all Pages, not just political ones.
According to announcement, “The Ad Library offers information about who saw the ad, as well as its spend and impressions, and houses ads for seven years.” Tracking who sees what ads raises larger questions and concerns related to data privacy and targeted marketing – which is ironic given the circumstances that led to Facebook launching this in the first place.
The premise and interface of the Ad Library (linked above) is simple. The Library provides a searchable collection of all of the ads which are running, or have been run, on Facebook and/or Instagram. Enter a name, topic of organization into the search bar and Facebook will provide a list of relevant matches which it can show data for. There is also the option to choose a region filter from the top right, and Facebook will use this to highlight regional variants.
Facebook is emphasizing transparency between themselves, advertisers, and their user base. Page information will include, creating dates, merges, name changes and location of Page managers. They will also offer weekly, monthly, and quarterly reports that downloadable for anyone.
While the primary focus continues to be political transparency and ensuring the platform is not misused by politically motivated groups, this Library is a huge gain for digital marketers. Marketers can track how their competitors are promoting material and how audiences are interacting with different advertisement strategies.
Despite these concerns, there is a major benefit everyday users. They can check the source of highly shared memes or posts which share misinformation. Anyone can look up a Page’s information and share it which could make other users re-think using that Page as a resource in future. In a way, it’s the Snopes of Facebook.
The Library is still in its infancy but the aforementioned issues of data privacy and targeted marketing are concerning. How these are impacted, if at all, remains to be seen. It does, however, have the potential to become another tool to improve digital literacy and fact-check false reportage.
Janna Singer-Baefsky, INFO 653_02