To run ads on Facebook, advertisers must connect their ads to a particular Facebook page that they administer. However, Facebook does not limit advertisers to running ads from a single Facebook page. For example, the Trump campaign has been running ads from over 20 different Facebook pages so far this year. Several of these pages are targeted at specific demographics. This is a deep dive of the month-by-month breakdown of how Donald Trump has utilized demographic-specific Facebook pages to run ads.
This report summarizes the challenges and concerns that the Illuminating project’s team encountered when using Facebook’s Ad Library to conduct research on the 2020 U.S. presidential election. We provide examples of each problem and explain why hindering the transparency of the online campaigning ecosystem poses a threat to campaign advertising research by academics and journalists. Our report concludes with recommendations that would help make Facebook’s Ad Library more accessible and transparent to journalists, researchers, and the general public.