Nick Statt at The Verge: “Facebook is aiming to improve transparency around political advertising on its platform by opening up more data to independent researchers, including targeting information on more than 1.3 million ads that ran in the three months prior to the US election on November 3rd of last year. Researchers interested in studying the ads can apply for access to the Facebook Open Research and Transparency (FORT) platform here.
The move is significant because Facebook has long resisted willfully allowing access to data around political advertising, often citing user privacy. The company has gone so far as to even disable third-party web plugins, like ProPublica’s Facebook Political Ad Collector tool, that collect such data without Facebook’s express consent.
Numerous research groups around the globe have spent years now studying Facebook’s impact on everything from democratic elections to news dissemination, but sometimes without full access to all the desired data. Only last year, after partnering with Harvard University’s Social Science One (the group overseeing applications for the new political ad targeting initiative), did Facebook better formalize the process of granting anonymized user data for research studies.
In the past, Facebook has made some crucial political ad information in its Ad Library available to the public, including the amount spent on certain ads and demographic information about who saw those ads. But now the company says it wants to do more to improve transparency, specifically around how advertisers target certain subsets of users with political advertising….(More)”.