Facebook is also moving forward this summer with an advertiser transparency hub so users can see all the ads created by a page, and not just those targeted to themselves. That policy applies to all advertisers, but is designed for and neatly exposes political “dark posts,” which allow an advertiser to keep some demographics from seeing some ads or content.
The Trump campaign aggressively used dark posts in its work with Facebook, so, for instance, only black people would be served a sound bite from 1996 of Hillary Clinton suggesting some African-American men are “super predators” and videos depicting Latin American and Muslim refugees as dangerous could be served to only white Republicans.
It was an effective way to distribute strong rhetoric without exposing candidates to the backlash they would get placing the same content on TV or in a public forum.
In Canada, where Facebook has been testing its initial political disclosure efforts this year, the added transparency has proven a useful tool for the press or opposing candidates and issue groups to expose information.
If one candidate's ads are only being served to specific demographics, that strategy is transparent.
Four US political ad buyers – two liberals, one conservative and one from a nonpartisan agency – said they expect Facebook’s announcement to dampen political advertising during the 2018 midterms.
Facebook still has the mind share and attention of its users – aka voters – so candidates and issue groups will be active on Facebook, “but if you’re putting up objectionable ad content you’ll be called out for it,” said Mark Jablonowski, co-founder and CTO of the liberal ad tech company DSPolitical.
Some buyers pour budgets into Facebook exactly because it enables that slicing and dicing of political audiences, said one conservative media buyer who wouldn’t comment publicly because he’s unsure how it will affect active medium-sized Facebook pages with political followings, “but if this really does mean that a buyer won’t be able to just put in a credit card and buy political issue ads, then it’s going to shoo some people off the platform.”