Facebook’s announcement to open Ad Archive API indicates a move towards transparency

Feb 13, 2019, 1:00 pm

Bhaswati S.

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Mozilla Corporation and partners have been calling Facebook for increased transparency and accountability of political advertisement, following which Facebook has announced its plans to open its Political Ad Archive API in March, that might be helpful in preventing abuse during the upcoming elections.

The Mozilla Foundation, along with an alliance formed by technologists, human rights defenders, academics, journalists, demanded this week that Facebook deliver on its commitments made to prioritize users and provide increased transparency.

Making the Facebook Ad Archive API publicly available would aid researchers, journalists and organizations to access the data necessary for the mechanisms behind political ad targets; so, it is absolutely crucial that Facebook would faithfully follow through on these statements and deliver on the other promises made to European lawmakers and voters.

In the short term, Facebook needs to be vigilant about promoting transparency ahead of and during the EU Parliamentary elections. Their action – or inaction – can affect elections across more than two dozen countries. In the long term, Facebook needs to sincerely assess the role its technology and policies can play in spreading disinformation and eroding privacy. – Ashley Boyd, Mozilla’s VP of Advocacy

In January, Mozilla had written to the European Commission that emphasizes the importance of a publicly available API, without which it won’t be possible to deliver products that can provide increased transparency regarding political advertisements.

Industry cannot ignore its potential to either strengthen or undermine the democratic process. Transparency alone won’t solve misinformation problems or election hacking, but it’s a critical first step. With real transparency, we can give people more accurate information and powerful tools to make informed decisions in their lives. – Alan Davidson, Mozilla’s VP of Global Policy, Trust and Security.

Moreover, the Mozilla Foundation had previously rallied huge numbers of internet users to hold Facebook accountable for its post-scandal promises, in the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica news. Mozilla Corporation had also temporarily ceased advertising products on Facebook, along with providing the Facebook Container for Firefox that would evade Facebook’s tracking of people around the web when they are not present on the platform.

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