Earlier this month, a tip from a Stranger reader helped me uncover the mystery financial backer behind an online ad campaign against the Seattle head tax. (The mystery backer: the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.)
Earlier today, I reported that while Facebook is now revealing some important information about head tax ads through its new online political ad archive, the company is not revealing everything local laws say it must. In addition, Facebook admits its archive of political ads is incomplete.
So The Stranger is partnering with ProPublica to help build an independent archive of political ads on Facebook.
Whether the ads are about the Seattle head tax, or heated midterm election races, or anything else, we need your help to find them. And it's super easy to do!
Here's how you can get involved:
Check out ProPublica's independent archive of political ads on Facebook and then, if you like what it's doing for online political ad transparency, download the ProPublica ad collector. (Chrome users click here, Firefox users click here.)
Once you do this, you'll become part of a nationwide effort to track political messaging on Facebook. Since you're a Stranger reader, you'll also likely be adding a pair of Seattle- or Washington State-based eyes to the project.
The ad collector doesn't track personally identifiable information about you. With your help, it just collects political ads that you're shown on Facebook and the targeting information associated with those ads.
Then it sends that infromation to the ProPublica archive, where Facebook ad trends can be identified and Facebook ads that don't show up in Facebook's incomplete ad archive can be exposed. (As recently happened with an ad about Washington State Republican Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers.)
What does The Stranger get out of this?
A bit more access to the ProPublica database than the average user, which will help us keep local political advertisers—and Facebook—honest during what's sure to be a very consequential election year.
Lots of answers right here.
We already know that Facebook has been used to, for example, push a misleading claim about Seattle property crime during the contentious 2017 race for city attorney. With more eyes—and more Chrome and Firefox extensions—watching Facebook's political ads, we'll be in an even better position to spot local shenanigans like that in 2018.