Facebook’s Ad Library gets more transparent as it seems to give users more control

Facebook has introduced a new feature that will enable users to have greater control over the political advertising that they experience. But the social media platform is likely to draw criticism once more, as it has stopped short of limiting political ads.
Facebook Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook has been heavily criticized for its willingness to allow political ads on its platform. Photo: Abundary

Updated Ad Library

The new measure sees Facebook update its Ad Library in order to “increase the level of transparency”, as Facebook itself comments. This will theoretically provide users of the social media site with more control over what they encounter while browsing Facebook.

Facebook believes that this is an “important step in making political ads more transparent and advertisers more accountable”. And it does seem that it will enable those using Facebook to more readily tailor their own experience to their needs.

But it is also easy to imagine that all sorts of unwanted advertising, particularly of a political nature, could still seep through the net, regardless of the intentions of users. And it’s also important to note that users literally do not know what sort of advertising they wish to eliminate. The whole point of misleading advertising is that you don’t know that it’s misleading!

While other major social media players such as Snapchat and Twitter have moved to implement more stringent measures in relation to political advertising, such a move is rather tricky for Facebook. The company founded by Mark Zuckerberg generates a huge amount of revenue via political ads, and will be reluctant to stymy this is any way. In the press release by Facebook, it states:

“…over 85% of spend by US presidential candidates on Facebook is for ad campaigns targeted to audiences estimated to be greater than 250,000.”

Facebook ads
Twitter meanwhile has moved to completely ban political ads from its site. Photo: Nan Palmero via Flickr.

Significant groundwork

Facebook claims that it has invested significant groundwork in tweaking the Ad Library at the site, with the company having engaged in dialogue with “dozens of political campaigns, activists, NGOs, nonprofits and volunteers” over its political ad policy. Clearly, Facebook recognizes that there is a PR imperative to address its political position, but faces a delicate commercial proposition in doing so.

The new updates enable users to view audience sizes for adverts, so they can see the estimated target audience size for each political, electoral or social issue advertisement, ad library searching and filtering is improved, while users are also offered control over custom audiences from a list of options.

And Facebook also announced its intention to enable users to view less political and social issue ads, indicating that it is currently working on a control that will allow this. Facebook plans to introduce control over political ads by the summer, begin with the United States, and eventually rolling the policy out to a variety of locations.

Facebook ads
Snapchat is another major social media player that has moved to eliminate political advertising. Photo: PXHere.

Twitter acknowledgement

In its communiqué on the subject, Facebook acknowledged that Twitter has completely banned political ads, and also that Google has limited the targeting of political ads at users. Facebook concedes that it has not gone as far as this, and instead characterizes its approach as being one of “expanding transparency”.

Whether this move will have a significant impact on the way that Facebook operates, or quells criticism of the social media giant, remains to be seen.

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