Starting next month Facebook will provide academic researchers access to a data package containing targeting information on over 1.3 million social issue, electoral and political ads that ran during the US 2020 elections.

“On February 1, researchers will have access, for the first time, to targeting information for more than 1.3 million social issue, electoral and political ads through the Facebook Open Research & Transparency (FORT) platform,” Facebook announced in a blog post.

“This data package includes ads that ran during the three-month period prior to Election Day, from August 3 to November 3, 2020,” it said.

‘By making the targeting criteria, such as location and interests, selected by advertisers running social issue, electoral or political ads available for analysis and reporting, we hope to help people better understand the practices used to reach potential voters on Facebook,” it added.

The social media major has said that it has taken steps to protect people’s privacy and keep the platform secure. It has announced these efforts to share data with researchers in order to increase transparency for ads about social issues, elections and politics run on Facebook and Instagram during the US 2020 elections.

Facebook’s Ad Library launched in 2019 already provides data related to social issues, electoral and political ads, including the ad creative and information about an ad’s performance — such as range of spend, impressions and demographic information about who saw the ad.

“We have heard feedback, particularly from the academic community, that understanding how advertisers choose to target audiences is key to learning more about the impact of digital ads on specific events like elections,” Facebook said.

“We recognise that understanding the online political advertising landscape is key to protecting elections, and we know we can’t do it alone,” it said.

Interested researchers can apply to Facebook in order to gain access to the FORT platform.

Apart from this, the social media major starting next month will also make available the US 2020 Election Spend Tracker data, currently available in the Ad Library, on its Elections page, where the information will remain available for download.

“This offers researchers, academics and others a look into how much presidential, senate and house candidates spent on ads during 2020,” it explained.

“Ads about social issues, elections or politics that run on Facebook and Instagram will continue to be archived and publicly available for seven years in both the Ad Library and Ad Library API,” it said.