Watzman: Facebook shouldn’t block a journalist tool revealing how political ads are targeted

The Colorado Sun: Many elements went into John Hickenlooper’s winning campaign for U.S. Senate this year, but an important aspect was his political advertising on Facebook. Not only did Hickenlooper outspend incumbent Sen. Cory Gardner on Facebook ads in the months leading up to Election Day by a ratio of $5 to $1, but he also deployed sophisticated targeting tactics – for example, reaching out to supporters of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and people interested in The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC.

That information – including how Hickenlooper targeted his ads – comes thanks to the NYU Ad Observatory project at New York University. This team of intrepid NYU cybersecurity researchers provided journalists, researchers and the public with information on how campaigns and political spenders were using Facebook strategically across the country. (Disclosure: As a consultant, I work to support this team.)

Specifically, the targeting information comes from the Ad Observer tool, a browser plug-in that allows Facebook users – 16,000 and counting – to volunteer data on what ads they see on the platform.

Visit The Colorado Sun for more.

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