Is Facebook planning to expose its microtargeting techniques for political ads?

Newly-spotted code on a Facebook website suggests that the platform is preparing to take a leap forward in transparency around how political ads are targeted to its users. Facebook denies any change is afoot.

Microtargeting on Facebook allows progressive voting rights groups to show their ads only to racial minorities. Or a pro-nuclear energy group to choose vegans as its target audience. In 2016, Russian operatives attempted to divide the American population by directing Facebook to show racially divisive messages, for instance, only to African-Americans. Such targeting power is built into Facebook’s design. In fact, a recent Senate Intelligence Committee report said Russian meddlers had used the Facebook platform “exactly as it was engineered to be used.”

Yet this information about how each ad is targeted is available only to people who see one and then click on an obscure button. It’s known on the platform as “Why am I seeing this?” or “WAIST,” and Facebook has consistently refused to disclose WAIST info for individual ads to the broader public.

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