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Lecture: Explaining Online US Political Advertising

Over the summer Facebook, Google, and Twitter have started making transparent United States political ads shown on their platforms. We have been collecting and analyzing these political ads to understand how candidates, elected officials, PACs, non-profits, for-profit companies, and individual citizens are disseminating U.S. political content using these advertising platforms.

Based on our analysis we will explain how major political sponsors are using online advertising system to send microtargeted messages to different audiences. We will also explain the messages, targetting, goals, spending, and impressions for major US political advertisers. As part of our project to improve the transparency of online political advertising, we have publically released our data and tools for others to analyze online political ads.

This will be a talk about improving the transparency of online political advertising.

We will start by describing the online political advertising transparency efforts that Facebook, Google, and Twitter have implemented.

We will next explain how we collected data from each of these efforts and are making it public.

After this, we will explain some of the methodologies and tools we are building to help analyze and visualize this data. Next, we will present some of our findings on how online political ads are being targetted and the messages they are communicating with different target audiences.

We will also present some case studies on major online political advertisers such as Donald Trump, Beto O’Rourke, the NRA, and Planned Parenthood. This will focus on how they are leveraging „micro-targeted“ advertisements and the goals of their advertising.

We will finish by demonstrating some of the visualization tools are have deployed to enable people to better understand online political advertising.