'There's a big responsibility on us': Facebook and Twitter are promising to make much more information about advertising public

Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch; REUTERS/Lucas JacksonFacebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey have come under heat for cleaning up their advertising practices.

  • Facebook and Twitter are under pressure to make their advertising policies more transparent.
  • After rolling out new processes for political advertisers, both companies are creating features that detail what ads from all advertisers look like.
  • Consumers will be able to see able to see all of a brands recent ads, which is aimed at ousting rogue advertisers.

Facebook and Twitter want to make it clear to the world – when it comes to advertising, we have nothing to hide.

Both companies have recently lifted the veil on how political ads are placed on their platforms. Now, they are each expanding their transparency efforts to all advertisers.

Indeed, ever since news surfaced about Russian operatives running ads on Facebook and Twitter during the 2016 presidential election – ads that were for the most part invisible to the majority of these social networks’ audiences – both marketers and lawmakers have been asking tough questions about how ad targeting exactly works on these properties.

As of May, both platforms set up specific requirements and labelling for political and issue-based ads. Now, they want to make it easier to track all kinds of ads.

Facebook wants to weed out rogues

In the case of Facebook, the platform’s more than 80 million business pages include a new feature called ‘view active ads’ under a tab called “info and ads” that details all of the ads that the page is paying for, regardless of its budget or who the ad is targeted towards.

For example, going to Coca-Cola’s page shows all of the creative Coke is running as well as information about the page such as when the account opened and any name changes to the account.

“We support Facebook’s efforts to give people more control and visibility over the information they see,” said Francisco Crespo, chief growth officer at the Coca-Cola Company. “We believe advertising should be transparent, whether it is for our company or for any business.”

Facebook transparencyFacebook
Facebook transparencyfacebook

However, Facebook has six million advertisers, meaning that most aren not Fortune 500 brands. Since the new ‘view active ads’ section shows ad placements from all advertisers, it could potentially weed out rogue ad spenders, the kind of advertisers that consumer advocacy groups keep tabs on, David Fischer, Facebook’s vice president of business and marketing partnerships, told Business Insider ahead of today’s announcement.

He acknowledged that the new section isn’t “one where we think everyone is going to want to go and see, but we think that the level of transparency is helpful.”

He added, “there’s a big responsibility on us-we’ve stepped us, invested in tools [and] tens of thousands of people to better ensure the integrity of everything on our platform,” he said. “Frankly, there are some watchdog groups out there that may be good partners in helping us identify things that they have more expertise on.”

‘We want people to understand who’s paying for what they see’

During a press event on Thursday, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, said that the tool is designed to expose shady brands. “We are providing much more transparency than any other advertising platform, either online or offline,” she said. “We know that this means people are going to find things that can be misleading, shouldn’t be on Facebook and report those to us and we want people to understand who’s paying for what they see.”

Sandberg added that Facebook let advertisers know that the changes were coming and that the “majority of them were very positive-they stand behind the ads they’re putting up. There’s definitely some [advertisers] out there with concern-mainly that their competitors are then going to see all of their ads.”

That said, she said that she “does not believe we’ll see a meaningful change in advertiser willingness to engage with our platform because of this,” referring to the ability for brands to analyse their competitors’ ads.

While Facebook is rolling out an achieve for political ads that will pull in seven years’ worth of campaigns, Facebook will not archive non-political ads, nor will consumers be able to see stats like a campaign’s cost, who it was targeted to or its reach.

“Resources can only do so much at one time, so trying to prioritise and get things done correctly,” Sandberg said.

Facebook is trying to make it much clearer which advertisers are spending on its platform

Facebook has long kept such information close to its chest, even as marketers and consumers demand more insights into how the platform’s ad business works. According to Fischer, the platform has offered control settings for consumers to customise ad preferences, though he admitted that “most people don’t know that it’s there.”

“There’s actually been a lot of transparency and controls but we have not done as good of a job as we could have about making that clear and creating that type of experience where people understand the controls,” he said. “There is having transparency and then feeling confidant that you have that control.”

Twitter is also preaching ad clarity

Similar to Facebook, Twitter announced new transparency efforts on Thursday with a new website called Ads Transparency Center that keeps track of all advertiser information.

Searching for an advertiser’s account pulls up a list of all the creative that an advertiser has run globally over the past seven days.

U.S. political advertisers will be bucketed into Twitter’s Political Campaigning Policy where stats about a campaign’s ad spend, billing information and demographic targeting as well as impression data for each Promoted Tweet.

Twitter transparencyTwitter

Twitter is working on creating a policy that specifically addresses issue ads and is “examining how to adapt and internationalize both political campaigning and issue ads policies,” wrote Bruce Falck, general manager of revenue product at Twitter, in a blog post.

“We are doing our due diligence to get this right and will have more updates to come. We stay committed to iterating and improving our work in this space, and doing what’s right for our community.”

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