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Facebook makes it easier for researchers to analyze its ad archive

A new API will sort by metrics like ad spend, impressions and demographics reached.
David Lumb, @OutOnALumb
August 22, 2018
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Regis Duvignau / Reuters

Back in May, Facebook made good on earlier promises and started labeling US election- and issue-related ads with who paid for them, and also linked to a searchable archive of such advertisements. Today, the platform started releasing an API that researcher and journalists can use to more easily analyze ads appearing on Facebook, though it's only open to certain groups and individuals during an initial test period.

The API lets users sift the archive's data by who created the ad, its start and end date, and performance data like total spend and impressions. They can also see demographics of age, gender and location of those whom the advertisements reached. This should help users make sense of large volumes, something others (like Google) might add to their own political ad archives.

The social network will only open it up to a select group of publishers, academics and researchers at first, and farm feedback from them to improve the API before a larger rollout. Their input will be the basis of an Archive report that will start coming out in September, Facebook director of product management Rob Leathern wrote in a blog post. Interested parties can apply to access the API here, though they will only be considered after the initial testing phase.

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