Event Recaps

Decoding digital ads on Facebook, Google, Snapchat, and Twitter ahead of 2020

  • William Gray

Spending on digital political ads continues to grow as the 2020 election heats up. The top spenders – including President Donald Trump – are laser-focused on microtargeting potential donors and voters through paid advertising on the largest online platforms. 

But Facebook, Google, Snapchat, and Twitter each have different policies about what makes an ad “political,” who can run the ads, how they are verified, and how long those ads stay in their corporate political advertising databases.

And the rules keep changing almost in real time: Twitter said it would stop “all political advertising” while Facebook is doubling-down on not fact-checking candidate ads. 

On November 19, researchers at Issue One and the Center for Responsive Politics trained reporters, advocates, and other experts about the paid political advertising policies on Facebook, Google, Snapchat, and Twitter, the companies’ ad databases, and what tricks and loopholes to be aware of when reporting with them going forward. The presentation below is an hour.


Michael Beckel, Issue One, Manager of Research, Investigations and Policy Analysis
Bio: Michael’s latest project, “Digital Disaster: The failures of Facebook, Google, and Twitter’s political ad transparency policies” revealed how voluntary, piecemeal approaches by the largest social media platforms to stop digital disinformation campaigns are falling short. Before joining Issue One in March 2017, Michael spent roughly a decade as an award-winning journalist following the money in politics, including stints at the Center for Public Integrity and Center for Responsive Politics. Follow him on Twitter.

Anna Massoglia, The Center for Responsive Politics, Nonprofits and FARA Researcher
Bio: Anna researches foreign influence, political ads and “dark money” in politics for the Center for Responsive Politics. Anna holds a J.D. from the University of the District of Columbia and worked previously at Bloomberg BNA. Follow her on Twitter.