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Facebook’s Ads Archive Report reveals the top political spenders



Facebook's Ad Archive Report makes "transparency" more meaningful.
Facebook’s Ad Archive Report makes “transparency” more meaningful.

Image: Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook has been pulling back the curtain on how politicians, super PACs, corporations, and other entities spend money on its platform. On Tuesday, it made that information more comprehensible, and therefore useful, with a weekly Ad Archive Report that summarizes political and “issues” advertising on the platform.

Facebook launched the Ad Archive in May alongside new labelling requirements for advertisers. The archive allowed anyone with a Facebook account to search all ads about elected officials, political candidates, and “issues.” As of Tuesday, now anyone — regardless of whether they have a Facebook account — can search the archive.

Also, Facebook will now generate a statistical report based on data from the archive every week, which anyone can look at. Up top, it shows how much total cash political spenders ponied up that week, and how many political ads are running. It shows the top political spenders over the past six months and the past week, as well as how much they spent, who paid for the ads, and the number of ads in the archive. Clicking on the advertiser will take you to a list of all their political ads. 

Donald Trump's ad archive as over October 2018.

Donald Trump’s ad archive as over October 2018.

Image: screenshot: Rachel Kraus/Mashable/Facebook

It also shows the top search terms people used in the archive. This week, people used Facebook’s ad archive to search for terms including “priorities usa action,” as well as “wacky wexton.”

Until today, the archive was basically a trove of information waiting to be mined, but not inherently useful unless you were searching for something specific. The report changes that. Now, Facebook has a way that people can check out the political ecosystem of Facebook at a glance. 

So how is political spending in America going lately? Just this week — and with the midterm elections only two weeks away — political advertisers spent over $250 million on more than 1.6 million Facebook ads. 

The advertisers spending the most over the past six months reflect some of the most contentious and high-profile issues and races in the country. Beto O’Rourke, the dark horse Democratic senate candidate giving Ted Cruz a run for his money, is the top spender. Plus, not one but two pro-Trump orgs are spending millions to push the president’s agenda. 

Here are the top political spenders on Facebook over the past six months, according to Facebook.

Here are the top political spenders on Facebook over the past six months, according to Facebook.

Image: screenshot: Rachel Kraus/mashable/Facebook

While a lot of the spending is expected, drilling down into the report also shines a light on local issues that corporations have a stake in. For example, over the last week, a group has spent over $250,000 opposing a California bill regulating dialysis care, while oil and gas companies have spent nearly $200,000 on ads opposing a proposed carbon tax in Washington state.

Image: screenshot: Rachel kraus/mashable/Facebook


Access and transparency are great, and have been the chosen lines of defense for social media companies coming under scrutiny for the role their platforms have played in polarizing American politics. But portals like this one are key for making that “transparency” actually mean something.

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