Richard Drew, Associated Press
The logo for Facebook appears on screens at the Nasdaq MarketSite, in New York's Times Square, Thursday, March 29, 2018.

The Deseret News is teaming up with the independent, nonprofit news site ProPublica, and we need your help.

ProPublica is using crowdsourcing to create a database of political advertisements from Facebook and is giving Deseret News readers the opportunity to participate.

"We hope that by monitoring political advertising on Facebook, we can increase the transparency and accountability of elections around the world," wrote ProPublica reporters Julia Angwin and Jeff Larson.

In recent weeks, Facebook has been under fire for how it collects personal data and for how Facebook ads have influenced American voter behavior, specifically in the 2016 election.

Facebook ads are difficult to track because targeting can be broad or specific, reaching audiences based on age, gender, region, interests and other identifiers.

The Federal Communications Commission has rules about political advertising, but online ads aren't held to those same standards.

How can I participate?

Download the Political Ad Collector, a tool built by ProPublica. This tool is a browser extension (available for Chrome and Firefox) that collects the ads you see while you scroll through Facebook.

How does it work?

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The collected ads are sorted by an algorithm to guess which are "normal" and which are "political" in nature. Ones that are political will be logged in a searchable database.

To help the algorithm be as accurate as possible, users can also identify the nature of the ad, as well as identify ads from other users' feeds.

What about my privacy?

All personally identifiable information is automatically removed when the ad is collected. This includes:

  • Facebook ID numbers
  • tracking identifiers
  • names and profile links of the user's friends who have liked the ad
  • any comments on the ad