Facebook has restricted the ability of external political transparency campaigners to monitor adverts placed on the social network, in a move described as an “appalling look” by one of the organisations affected.
WhoTargetsMe, a British group dedicated to scrutinising adverts on the social network, has said its activities have been severely restricted by recent changes made by the social network. The change has also hit a similar programme by the US investigative journalism site ProPublica, affecting both groups’ ability to collect data on why users are being targeted by political campaigners.
The monitoring tools, which involve asking users to install a browser plug-inand collecting data on the adverts they see, has helped expose many of the advertising tactics used by politicians, making it harder for those who pay for negative adverts to escape scrutiny.
“Ten days ago, our software stopped working, and efforts to fix it have proved much harder than before,” said WhoTargetsMe co-founder Sam Jeffers. He said he feared his service could soon be in effect locked out of Facebook altogether. “Facebook is deliberately obfuscating their code. When we have made small changes, they’ve responded with further updates within hours.
“This comes in a year when over a third of the world’s population has the opportunity to vote, with elections across the EU, India, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Israel and Ukraine to name a few. In sum, they are actively trying to stop our project from gathering data about the ads they run, and the targeting of those ads. Obviously, we think this is the wrong decision.”