During the 2016 election, Russian trolls, political campaigns, and special interest groups exploited the ability to run political ads on Facebook that were largely hidden from public view. This same type of ad is now being run for the midterm elections — and BuzzFeed News needs your help to collect and analyze them.
We’re partnering with ProPublica, a nonprofit news organization that built a simple tool to collect the political ads that people like you are being targeted with on Facebook. ProPublica has already collected more than 48,000 ads, and you can search through them here. This important database has helped expose how ad targeting is being abused, among other important stories.
Here’s how you can take part: Install the Political Ad Collector extension in your Firefox or Chrome web browser so it can start collecting the ads shown to you in your Facebook News Feed. This piece of software is built with strict privacy controls to ensure the only information it collects is related to the ads you’re being targeted with. We have no idea who you are and neither collect nor retain any personal, identifiable information. We just get the ads, and in the process, help bring more transparency to the political process.
The more people who participate, the more ads we can collect and analyze, and the better job journalists can do covering this election.
Read the instructions and more detailed information about the Political Ad Collector here. You can install it for Firefox here or Chrome here. The ads gathered with the Political Ad Collector are also available for you or anyone else to search through. You can see which candidates or special interest groups are targeting people in your state, age range, or those with your, or anyone else’s, political views. This helps reveal larger trends that no one person — or news organization — can see on their own.
You may have heard that Facebook recently launched an archive of political ads that also lets you view current and recent ads that the company classified as political. However, it doesn’t show who was targeted with the ad, which is essential to understanding the strategy and goals behind a given political ad. ProPublica’s database also already has many ads that were not included in Facebook’s. This means it’s essential that we build an independent database of targeted political ads.
Help hold politicians, groups, and Facebook accountable by installing the Political Ad Collector, and BuzzFeed News will use this important data to report on targeted advertising this election.