There is a lot of talk about the problem of Facebook ads - often about how it tracks its users' information for targeted ads, or other shady groups who use ads to spread false information. We even see this effect in our political landscape. There are voters and also politicians who push false information or fake news. They simply copy something they saw on social media and assume it is true. Facebook ads can be relatively shocking since the platform is collecting personal data and uses this data to tailor ads based on your online behaviour. This can lead to very specific and sometimes even creepy specific ads. Though this also increases the chance for who don't check their facts to be fooled by misleading information and fake news.
To address this problem, a lot of people increase their privacy settings, or even delete their entire Facebook account. When you not quite ready to delete your account, but don't like to receive these fake messages and stream of misleading information, there is an alternative. You can no receive information about every entity that is promoting contents or publishes ads on Facebook.
Political advertising database
Facebook has developed database of all political ads that have been on Facebook since May 2018. These ads will be stored inside this database for at least seven years. This database allows you to search for any politically related ads that are out there and is viewable by all Facebook users. This means you can even see advertisements that aren't targeted to you individually. You can search the database based on keywords, and you can filter on country, active and inactive ads, and if they run on related pages. After clicking the ad, you can see who paid for it, how many times it has been viewed, the runtime of the ads, and even other metrics.
Every week Facebook also puts together a weekly downloadable report, which displays detailed information about the ads that run during the past week on the platform. Note that this report is only available for the USA, India, United Kingdom and Israel.
When looking at this report, it is stated that during May 2018 and April 2019 there were a total of over 3 million political ads inside the USA.These ads had total spending of approximately $547 million. For the UK this number was 42.000 ads with a total spend of £3 million By providing this transparency, it makes it relatively easy to see who is paying for these ads and publish this information on Facebook.
Is a page running active ads?
Being able to search for political ads Facebook has made a smart decision in being more transparent about its ads. However, Facebook ads are more than just political; actually, there are many much more non-political ads that pop-up on your timeline.
When visiting a companies Facebook page, users can now, with only a few clicks see any active ads which are currently running from that page. You simply go to the Facebook page, click on “Info and Ads” button at the bottom of the left side menu. This will bring you to a new page which presents all the currently active ads published to Facebook, Facebook messenger and/or Instagram. On this page, you can also find links to ads run by similar or related pages/companies if the page has run political ads.