Friday, July 6, 2018

Twitter and Facebook Introduce "Ads Transparency" Tools

Facebook Pages ad transparency tool

In this day and age, it's difficult to get around without utilizing online resources, but in many cases, using those resources require the user to give up quite a bit of their personal information, from names and birthdates to shopping preferences. Because of this, private companies have access to a lot of their customers' personal information.  Yet, although that personal data is being sold to companies to enable their "targeted advertisements" to work better, the customers being targeted rarely receive any information in return about the organizations trying to target them, especially when those organizations are political in nature. Fortunately, according to a recent Bloomberg article, both Twitter and Facebook are in the process of revamping their advertisement policies to make it apparent to all users where the ads are coming from, who paid for them, and how much they paid.

While understanding the identities and motivations of the companies and organizations trying to target you through social media can be nice, that kind of data isn't nearly on the same level as the browsing history and other product-preference data the companies have on you. But, since many of their customers have recently opted to discontinue use of several social media sites after various data scandals, the social media platforms had to make some sort of gesture to try to regain their customers' trust. Twitter was also recently under fire by US lawmakers for not having a system in place to identify and deal with fake accounts that are used for spam or scams, especially in the political arena, as that's the category on which lawmakers tend to focus.

The new Twitter tool, called the Ads Transparency Center tool, lets users search for any Twitter account and see all advertisements run by the account over the past week. For politically-related advertisers, even more data will be released: demographic-targeting data, the amount spent, billing information, etc. All of that data should help lawmakers and analysts determine if certain accounts are being designed specifically to produce misleading or false advertisements for the purpose of impacting US political races.

It's an interesting change in policies. Until now, there was very little oversight regarding advertisements on social media. But, it does make sense that there should be just as much regulation for a Facebook political message as for one that is played over the radio or on the television. Some lawmakers are even putting forward bills to require that social media advertisements meet the same honesty requirements as any other ads. Overall, these changes seem to have little to do with making the individual customers happy, and more to do with obliging with the wishes of lawmakers, but sometimes the two categories overlap.

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