Facebook unveils new tools in its political ads database to combat abuse, disinformation

Facebook announced a new way for users to easily find and scrutinize political ads in its database, the company announced on Wednesday.

The Ad Archive API will allow researchers, journalists, publishers and watchdog groups to efficiently analyze and search for ads to determine if anything untoward is happening.

It is part of the tech giant’s ongoing efforts to make advertising more transparent and prevent a repeat of the 2016 U.S. presidential election—when Facebook was harnessed by Russian nationals to influence voters and sow discord.


“We always said we can’t do it alone. Having more eyes on this content is an important step to continuing to prevent abuse,” said Facebook spokesperson Beth Gautier.

The social network—which on Tuesday announced that it had shut down hundreds of pages and accounts linked to Russia and Iran for “coordinated inauthentic behavior” on top of 32 different accounts removed for efforts to influence U.S. politics in July—is beginning outreach to gauge interest in participating in the initial test of the new tool.

Facebook has been under pressure from American and British officials to do more to combat fake news, disinformation and election meddling since investigations revealed Russia-based influence campaigns in the run-up to Brexit and the U.S. presidential election.

The API will offer “ad creative, start and end date, and performance data, including total spend and impressions for ads,” along with “demographics of people reached,” according to Rob Leathern, director of product management at Facebook. The Ad Archive, which is searchable, includes advertisements related to politics and issues of national importance.

The new tool’s rollout is starting in the U.S. initially.

“We’re greatly encouraged by trends and insights watchdog groups, publishers and academics have unearthed since the archive launched in May,” Leathern said. “We believe this deeper analysis will increase accountability for both Facebook and advertisers.”