Digital rights groups call on Facebook to provide more transparency around political advertising ahead of EU elections

A coalition of European academics, technologists and human and digital rights groups has signed an open letter to Facebook (dated 11 February 2019) demanding greater transparency about how Facebook’s platform distributes and amplifies political ads as well as calling for an end to harassment of researchers building tools to provide greater transparency into the advertising on the platform ahead of the EU elections in May. 

The articles below also include a statement from Facebook.

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Article
11 February 2019

Facebook urged to offer an API for political ad transparency research

Author: Techcrunch

A coalition of European academics, technologists and human and digital rights groups, led by Mozilla,  has signed an open letter to the company demanding far greater transparency about how Facebook’s platform distributes and amplifies political ads ahead of elections to the European parliament which will take place in May...

In a statement responding to the open letter, attributed to Rob Leathern, its director of product management, Facebook said:

We’re committed to a new level of transparency to ads on Facebook and encourage others to do the same. That’s why we’re planning to open the Ad API in late March — at the same time as our already-announced program to label political ads ahead of the European Parliament election — so people on and off Facebook can analyze political ads and see them archived in a library for up to seven years. This work is important and part of our broader efforts to protect elections this year. We’re also bringing transparency tools for political ads to India, Israel, Ukraine, and globally in June.

Read the full post here

Article
11 February 2019

Open letter to Facebook

Author: Mozilla & 38 others

In response to our campaign, Facebook announced that it would open up its Ad Archive API next month. Read Mozilla's statement about the response here...

We are writing you today as a group of technologists, human rights defenders, academics, journalists and Facebook users who are deeply concerned about the validity of Facebook’s promises to protect European users from targeted disinformation campaigns during the European Parliamentary elections. You have promised European lawmakers and users that you will increase the transparency of political advertising on the platform to prevent abuse during the elections...

Actions speak louder than words. That’s why you must take action to meaningfully deliver on the commitments made to the EU institutions notably the increased transparency that you’ve promised...

Specifically, we ask that you implement the following measures by 1 April 2019 to give developers sufficient lead time to create transparency tools in advance of the elections:

  • Roll out a functional, open Ad Archive API that enables advanced research and development of tools that analyse political ads served to Facebook users in the EU.
  • Ensure that all political advertisements are clearly distinguished from other content and are accompanied by key targeting criteria such as sponsor identity and amount spent on the platform in all EU countries.
  • Cease harassment of good faith researchers who are building tools to provide greater transparency into the advertising on your platform.

Read the full post here