Public databases launched by Facebook and Google before the midterm elections provide insight into how quickly the firms remove political advertisements that they believe break their platform’s rules.
Reuters reports that public databases recently launched by Facebook and Google provide a previously unseen level of detail about how the companies treat online political ads and how political groups utilize online marketing. Facebook and Google launched these databases in order to provide details on how political ad purchases on their platform operate, this was partly in response to allegations that foreign influence campaigns linked to Russia and Iran operated on the company’s platforms.
According to Reuters, 436 ads — 375 which ran on Facebook and 61 that appeared on Google — were removed from the platforms between May to October 2018. The ads were related to 34 U.S. House of Representatives contests which were considered to be competitive according to multiple political opinion polls. 258 ads were removed from the platforms but remained available for varying amounts of time, averaging approximately eight days across Google and 15 days on Facebook.
Based on this information, Reuters determine that of the 436 ads were displayed to users as many as 20.5 million times and would have cost the advertisers as much as $582,000. When asked for comment, Google stated that they were committed to providing transparency in online political advertising while Facebook stated that the database helped to hold the company accountable “even if it means our mistakes are on display.”
Google’s database contains information relating to approximately $54 million worth of ad spending by U.S. political campaigns since May while Facebook’s database holds the records of $354 million worth of ads.
Many social media platforms paid close attention to their websites ahead of the November midterm elections with Facebook reportedly blocking 30 accounts on Facebook and another 85 on Instagram. The blocked Facebook pages reportedly communicated mainly in French and Russian although the majority of accounts on Instagram were English-speaking.
Twitter also deleted as many as 10,000 accounts at the request of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, a party group that supports Democrats running for the U.S. House of Representatives.