MENLO PARK, Calif. — Social media companies, stepping up efforts to stop disinformation on their online platforms ahead of this year’s midterm elections, unveiled on Thursday new tools aimed at improving transparency around advertisements.
In simultaneous announcements, Facebook and Twitter said they were broadening efforts around public, searchable archives of ads that run on their sites.
Twitter, which has begun requiring that anyone running a campaign ad go through a verification process, said Thursday that it was introducing an Ads Transparency Center, which allows the public to view a database of any ad run on the platform.
Facebook, which made a database of political ads public last month, announced on Thursday that it intended to make it easier to see background details — such as the buyer — of all ads running across Facebook and its various platforms, including Instagram and Messenger.
Each Facebook page will now have a tab called “Info and Ads.” Clicking on that tab will reveal every ad a page runs, as well as details about the page itself, including when it was founded and any name changes.
“Our ultimate goal is very simple: We want to reduce bad ads and make sure people understand what they are saying,” said Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer. “We believe advertisers and us should be held accountable for content and ads.”
Facebook has promised to label news separately, after a backlash from publishers.
Both Twitter and Facebook have been roundly criticized for allowing Russian agents to use the social media services in an effort to manipulate the 2016 presidential election. And lawmakers and independent researchers have questioned why the companies have been slow to respond to the problem.
Facebook, which has repeatedly stated that the political ad archive is a work in progress, has fought criticism that too many campaign ads slip through, while ads that have no political undertones are incorrectly flagged.
Twitter’s archive of ads was made public on Thursday, but the company has said that finding an ad requires knowing what to look for. The archive allows users to see advertisements distributed for specific buyers, but it doesn’t allow a broader search around terms to reveal, for instance, any advertisement run in support of President Trump, or political issue ads that mention immigration or gun control.
Twitter has said it hopes to make it possible to search the archive by terms. The current version is just a first step toward improving transparency, the company said.
Facebook has promised a wide range of efforts, which include verifying the identity of any person running a campaign ad on the platform. Facebook is also working with independent fact-checking teams, like PolitiFact, and starting a news literacy campaign to help teach the American public how to spot disinformation.
Twitter, in addition to the new ad disclosure rules, said recently that it would start labeling tweets from people running for office — but only with the candidates’ permission. A label on the biography page of a candidate would indicate that the person was running for office and the seat being pursued. The label would follow each tweet sent or retweeted from that account.
Follow Sheera Frenkel on Twitter: @sheeraf.