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The Political Ad Collector

Political campaigns spend a lot of money to reach voters on Facebook. Are they telling the truth? Are they saying different things to different people? Help hold them and Facebook accountable by installing our browser plugin, which automatically sends us the ads you see.

How It Works

The Political Ad Collector is a tool you add to your web browser. It sends Quartz the ads you see on Facebook, so journalists and anyone else can see them in a public database.

It doesn’t collect your personal information. We take your privacy very seriously.

What we collect

  1. Text and links in the ad
  2. The picture, video or link in the ad
  3. Information Facebook provides about the ad’s target audience
  • The time and date the ad was seen
  • The number of times the ad has been seen
  • The language you told us you speak

a schematic showing which portions of an ad are collected

What we don’t collect

Anything else, including:

  • Your Facebook ID number
  • Who has liked and shared a post
  • Your name, birthday, friends list, etc.
  • Identifying information about who saw what ad

Why It Matters

Online ads are usually seen only by the audience the advertiser wants to target, and then they disappear. This makes it difficult for the public to monitor them and hold advertisers, including political groups, accountable. This isn’t a partisan issue. We think it’s important for our democracy to check what politicians of all stripes are saying. Already, we’ve found deceptive ads, campaigns breaking FEC rules and political groups making misleading claims).

Instructions for Chrome

Jump to instructions for Firefox instead

1. Go to this link. It will open a new tab that takes you to the Chrome Web Store.

2. Click the blue button that says “Add to Chrome.”

3. A little window will pop up that says “Add ‘Facebook Political Ad Collector?’ It can: Read and change your data on all facebook.com sites and projects.propublica.org.” This is the disclaimer Chrome requires us to use, but we promise we aren’t changing your Facebook data or collecting anything besides the ads. If you’re OK with that, click the white “Add extension” button.

4. You’ll see the Political Ad Collector icon in the top right corner of your browser

.a picture of the political ad collector icon

There will also be a note telling you it has been installed.

5. Click on the icon to start up the Political Ad Collector. You’ll need to confirm your language and country, and you can read more technical information about the tool. If you accept this, click the “Accept” button.

Now just use Facebook as you normally do. To see ads you’ve gathered, just click on the Political Ad Collector icon.

Instructions for Firefox

1. Go to this link. It will open a new tab that takes you to the Firefox Add-ons store.

2. Click the blue button that says “+ Add to Firefox.” You may see a small window that says “addons.mozilla.org Firefox prevented this site from asking you to install software on your computer.” Please click the “Allow” button.

3. You will then see a window that says “Add Facebook Political Ad Collector?” and asks for your permission. This is a disclaimer Firefox requires us to use, but we promise that the only thing we are accessing is the ads you see on Facebook. If you’re OK with that, click the blue Add button.

4. Another window will tell you the Facebook Political Ad Collector has been added to Firefox. Click “Okay, got it.”

You’ll see the Political Ad Collector icon in the top right corner of your browser.

a screenshot of the Facebook Political Ad Collector icon in Firefox

5. Click on the icon to start up the Political Ad Collector. You’ll need to confirm your language and country, and you can read more technical information about the tool. If you accept this, click the blue Accept button.

Now just use Facebook as you normally do. To see ads you’ve gathered, just click on the Political Ad Collector icon.

What’s next

We’re working on ways to monitor other prominent platforms, particularly a prominent video site. Stay tuned to Qz.com—and to announcements in the Stories tab of the extension—for more.

a screenshot of the Stories tab in the browser extension.

Want to do more?

The Facebook Political Ad Collector tool lets you help us to decide whether or not an ad is political. You can rate the ads you’ve seen or ads others are seeing as either political or not political. This helps train our artificial intelligence tool so it can flag political ads. If you want to tell us an ad is political, click “Political Ad.” If it’s not political, click “Normal Ad.” Sometimes ads aren’t clearly political, and that’s OK. Just choose what you think is best.

a picture of the ad rating interface

If you want to check out political ads in the US, you can see the public archive at ProPublica, one of many journalism organizations participating in this project.

And if you want to help the most? Please share our tool with your friends and family on Facebook!