Meta will give researchers more insight into political ad targeting

Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, said it planned to provide external researchers with more detailed information about how political ads are targeted on its platform, providing insights into the ways politicians, campaign agents and political strategists buy and sell ads. they use ads before the middle of the period. elections.

Starting Monday, academics and researchers registered with an initiative called the Facebook Open Research and Transparency Project will be able to see data on how each political or social ad was used to target people. The information includes which interest categories, such as “people who like dogs” or “people who enjoy the outdoors,” were chosen to target someone with an ad.

Additionally, Meta said it planned to include targeting information summaries for some of its ads in its publicly viewable ad library beginning in July. The company created the Ad Library in 2019 so that journalists, academics and others could obtain information and help protect elections against misuse of digital advertising.

While Meta has given outsiders access to how its political ads were used in the past, it has restricted the amount of information that can be viewed, citing privacy reasons. Critics have claimed that the company’s system is flawed and sometimes flawed, and have frequently asked for more data.

That has led to conflict. Meta previously clashed with a group of New York University academics who attempted to ingest vast amounts of self-reported data on Facebook users to learn more about the platform. The company cut off access to the group last year, citing violations of its platform rules.

The new data being added to Facebook’s Open Research Transparency Project and Ad Library is a way for it to share information about political ad targeting while trying to keep its users’ data private, the company said.

“By making advertiser targeting criteria available for analysis and reporting on ads running on social issues, elections and politics, we hope to help people better understand the practices used to reach voters. potential in our technologies,” the company said in a statement.

Using the new data, for example, researchers examining the ad library were able to see that, over the course of a month, a Facebook page ran 2,000 political ads and that 40 percent of the ad budget was directed at “people who live in Pennsylvania” or “people who are interested in politics.”

Meta said it was subject to privacy rules and regulations about what types of data it could share with outsiders. In an interview, Jeff King, vice president of Meta’s business integrity unit, said the company had hired thousands of workers in recent years to review such privacy issues.

“Everything we post now goes through a privacy review,” he said. “We want to make sure we’re giving people the right amount of data, but still remain privacy-conscious while doing it.”

The new data on political ads will cover the period from August 2020, three months before the last US presidential election, to the present.

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