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Facebook won’t release data on political ads to researchers

The company's policy is the same for political and commercial advertising.

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While many political scientists are itching to get their hands on data documenting how political ads on Facebook performed, the company says it won't be releasing that information. Facebook says it doesn't differentiate between political and commercial ads with this policy and that's not likely to change any time soon.

Researchers want information on how much money candidates spent on ads, who saw them and how often they were clicked in order to assess how big of a role ads played in the election. And because online advertising allows for more specific demographic targeting than other methods, getting information on how ads changed across demographics is information that academics think would boost transparency.

"The holy grail, I think, of political analysis for the 2016 election is to figure out which communications from which entities had an effect on which jurisdictions in the United States," Nathan Persily, a Stanford University professor, told Reuters.

But Facebook wants to keep their policies consistent, which means no exception will be made for political ads. Facebook's deputy chief privacy officer Rob Sherman said that ads are often considered creative content and advertising strategies confidential information. Sherman added that Facebook was open to hearing research proposals, but changes weren't likely to be made.

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