Facebook is doubling down on its commitment to transparency and accountability, and it’s testing out its efforts in Canada first.
As of November 2017, Facebook will begin testing a feature that will allow users to learn more about all of the ads on any given Facebook page, Instagram account and Messenger feed.
Users in Canada will be the first to try out the ‘View Ads’ feature, which enables users to view ads, “whether or not the person viewing is in the intended target audience for the ad,” according to Facebook.
Facebook’s plan is to test out the View Ads feature in Canada, and then roll it out to the U.S. by summer 2018, in preparation for the country’s 2018 midterm elections in November.
Other countries will be included in the future roll-out around the same time as the U.S.
“Testing in one market allows us to learn the various ways an entire population uses the feature at a scale that allows us to learn and iterate,” reads an excerpt from an October 27th, 2017 Facebook media release. “Starting in Canada was a natural choice as this effort aligns with our election integrity work already underway there.”
This is in reference to September 15th, 2017 and October 19th, 2017 Facebook announcements regarding the company’s intentions to prevent electoral interference ahead of Canada’s general election in 2019.
While Facebook’s Canadian tests will only allow users to keep track of active ads, the feature’s eventual American roll-out will allow users to search a four-year archive of political ads, track ad spending, as well as glean demographic data and impressions data.
Advertisers interested in purchasing election-related ad space will also need to verify their location and identity.
“When you click on the disclosure, you will be able to see details about the advertiser,” reads another excerpt. “Like other ads on Facebook, you will also be able to see an explanation of why you saw that particular ad.”
As for the political advertisers who refuse to disclose their personal information, Facebook is “building machine learning tools that will help us find them and require them to verify their identity.”
Earlier this month, Facebook revealed that an estimated 10 million U.S. users were exposed political ads disseminated by groups or individuals linked to Russia.
As a result of the alleged influence of foreign advertising targeting U.S. users in the days, weeks and months leading up to the country’s November 2016 presidential election, Facebook has announced a number of measures to ensure that interfering powers are unable to influence a country’s political process.